What could a city do with all the space that’s dedicated to parking?
That’s the driving question behind PARK(ing) Day, an international event where cities transform their metered parking spots into public spaces ranging from mini parks to libraries to concerts.
Cambridge will reinvent 127 parking spots on Sept. 15, allowing 55 groups to set up compact events to educate and entertain.
“The goal of it is to show just how much space a parking spot takes up and what you could do in that amount of space,” says Jennifer Lawrence, sustainability planner for the Community Development Department and organizer of Cambridge’s PARK(ing) Day. “It’s meant to show people you can creatively use outdoor spaces, but also in Cambridge we allow our non-profits and businesses and city departments to highlight themselves and to promote the work that they’re doing and get more people engaged.”
The Community Development Department will construct a tiny house in Inman Square where people can learn about affordable housing and renting or owning homes in the city. Nearby, bicycle tune-ups are available thanks to SHIFT Community Bicycle Collective. Bicyclists can also take advantage of two separated bike lanes, one running from Albany to Front Street on Mass. Ave. and another in Porter Square.
In Central Square, city council and school committee candidates will do interviews with Cambridge Community Television.
The Criminal Justice Policy Coalition will set up shop between Porter and Harvard to raise awareness about solitary confinement. The group will mark within the parking spot the small space that prisoners are relegated to when they’re put in solitary confinement, according to Lawrence.
Lawrence will run “Building a Culture of Health,” a collaboration between several groups that will stretch across several parking spaces in Harvard Square. It will offer yoga and meditation, games, and bicycle education workshops to promote Vision Zero.
PARK(ing) Day got started in San Francisco in 2005, and Cambridge has been organizing its own version for six years. Despite the parking spot takeover, Lawrence says PARK(ing) Day is not an anti-car event.
“Car ownership in Cambridge is decreasing, it has been falling steadily,” Lawrence says. “As people ride bikes, people take buses, as people start walking around more, there’s the potential to do other stuff with that space. But more than that, it’s also to show that you can do a lot in a 7×20-foot space. We’re a really dense city, there’s not a ton of room to do stuff, but there are things that we can do in much smaller spaces, we can be creative.”
The even will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, although some events have slightly different hours. A full list of the participating groups is available on the Community Development Department’s website. Organizers are expecting at least a few thousand people, according to Lawrence.
“You get the random people walking by, just on lunch break or whatever, and that’s where the fun comes in—when you stumble upon this thing and you can do a yoga class at lunch,” Lawrence says.