'Tactical urbanists' turning 2 parking spots into a city park
Organizer says downtown Hamilton has too much parking
Anyone heading down James Street North on Friday will notice that two parking spots do not look like parking spots.
In fact, they'll look a little more like a city park.
A group from the Hamilton/Burlington Society of Architects is committing some tactical urbanism in the form of PARK(ing) Day.
The group will put money in the meters all day — effectively renting the space — and put down some carpet, trees and organic grass. Then they'll put down some chairs and sit there.
There's a point to it, said Graham McNally, a local architect and one of the organizers.
We want to soften the street.- Graham McNally
City streets are for everyone, not just people in cars, he said. The point is to show how much friendlier a street is when just two parking spaces are greener and used by everyone.
"It's a discussion about complete streets and how we allocate space," he said.
"We want to soften the street."
McNally said the group isn't anti-car. He does, however, think there's too much surface parking downtown. It's a common sentiment among Hamilton complete streets advocates.
The state of downtown parking has been a common subject at city hall too. Jason Farr, councillor for Ward 2, has called the downtown "an overwrought map of asphalt." He prompted the city to offer up a surface lot to prospective buyers who would put a multi-use building on it with parking as part of the structure.
During his final state-of-the-city address as mayor last year, Bob Bratina also lamented how cheap parking is downtown.
"I'm embarrassed that we have 50 cent-an-hour parking meters," he said. "That's like Tillsonburg."
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Still, the city is in talks with companies interested in building multi-level parking structures downtown. The city put out a request for interest when MMM Group Limited — a building services firm — predicted a future parking shortage downtown.
Farr, who is a fan of PARK(ing) Day, said the request for proposal to use a surface parking lot will be back before councillors in November.
"If it works, I'd love to see it happen on every surface lot we own," he said.
The point of Friday's event, McNally said, is to get people thinking about what streets could and should look like.
"We'd love to just have anybody who's walking by enjoy a coffee or conversation," he said.
The city is allowing it. It has granted the group permission to take up two parking spaces. When the event ends, the city will pick up about 10 trees from the parking spaces and use them in a local park.
With this event, the city is also launching a small-scale pilot to handle when similar "urban interventions" happen throughout the city, said spokesperson Ann Lamanes.
PARK(ing) Day is an international event that's been happening since 2005. In Hamilton, it will happen near the corner of James North and Vine from 9 a.m. to around 5:30 p.m.
It's not the first time the concept has happened in Hamilton. Randy Kay of OPIRG McMaster says its Transportation for Living Communities group has held several parking meter parties, the most recent being in 2008.