Park(ing) Day in Downtown celebrates people-focused public space
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the new date for the Park(ing) Day event, which was rescheduled to Sept. 30 due to a rain delay on Sept. 17.
How would Atlanta roads look if people were given the same priority as cars? Are there other ways to design our shared space to better serve the city’s residents and visitors?
Questions like those are what led to Park(ing) Day, a day dedicated to putting people at the forefront of city planning.
The annual event encourages cities worldwide to reimagine their built infrastructure and adjust car-centric shared spaces into a place designed for the community, like a mini-park.
This year, the Atlanta Department of City Planning and Central Atlanta Progress are hosting a Park(ing) Day event on Peachtree Street, the site of the Peachtree Shared Space project. The project, spanning from Ellis Street to Baker Street, is a temporary, three-part plan to help inform a permanent shared space design for the area.
The design reduces Peachtree’s traffic lanes by half, allowing extra space for bus shelters, walkways and on-street dining.
The project kicked off in June, so Park(ing) Day is the prime occasion for neighbors to check out this piece of pedestrian-heaven. So far, there’s been a 40 to 50 percent increase in pedestrian activity in the area during the weekdays, according to the 60-day project update, although folks seem to be reducing their weekend-morning walks.
On Thursday, Sept. 30, visitors can expect artists decorating the pavement with chalk, live music from the United States Air Force Band and architectural tours of the neighborhood.
“Park(ing) Day is a worldwide celebration of taking spaces that are usually designated for cars like parking spaces, or in our case this lane on Peachtree,” Sonia Sequeira, community engagement lead and Park(ing) Day events manager, said. “It is a celebration of people, and how the spaces can be really more vibrant and full of activity.”
The idea to repurpose parking spaces came out of the West Coast in the early 2000s, when three friends discovered that a parking spot is an “incredibly cheap piece of San Francisco real estate,” according to the website, and the trio envisioned a better use for public space.
The downtown Atlanta event will showcase the transformed slice of downtown and will demonstrate “what it could be like to really have a space designed for people,” Sequeira said.
For her, the true marker of success is a space that adds value to the community and “brings people together.”
Office of Design Director Kevin Bacon agrees, emphasizing that residents should be prioritized in city design.
“We don’t have to settle for our streets, starting with Peachtree, as just a place for cars,” Bacon said. “We’re a growing city, and there is space to be had for the activities of everyday life that are why we live in cities, to begin with. We’re a little behind in Atlanta, but we can get caught up in a hurry if people start to see that and demand it.”
If you’re intrigued by the idea or have a vision for reclaiming urban space, head over to Peachtree Street this Thursday, Sept. 30. You also have until then to give your two cents on the Peachtree Shared Space design.