Being from Iowa and living in Chicago can be challenging for me because of the lack of greenspace I was accustomed to as a kid. We have parks, don't get me wrong, but there are stretches where it is sparse. Enter Worldwide Park(ing) Day. The concept was hatched in 2005 when an art group called Rebar paid a 2-hr parking meter, laid some sod, a potted tree, a bench, some retaining chains, and relaxed. An image of the parklet went viral, and the rest, they say, is history.
September 21 has been declared Worldwide Park(ing) Day and now, there are 35 participating countries on 6 continents. This can be anything from a converted parking lot, as I'll talk about in a bit, or a 2-hour parking metered spot like the original space. The work of Rebar has been featured all over and they even have a manual on how to participate in Park(ing) Day. And, once you've set up your own park, you can put it on their interactive map.
Andersonville Development Corporation
Worldwide Park(ing) Day has inspired some really creative spaces near my home. One in my neighborhood, thanks to the Andersonville Development Corporation, and one in front of one of Chicago's most innovative and creative businesses, Heritage Bicycles General Store. I've used both of these spots, and can honestly say it's nice to have a place to rest that doesn't require you to either shop or buy anything, especially with kids. My son loves the little patch of grass at the Andersonville spot. He tumbles down with other kids and that's great. The kids especially seem to enjoy climbing and exploring the layout, giving them a little respite from the business grownups conduct in the stores. Along with their partners and the ecoAndersonville initiative, they've done a tremendous job of bringing green space to Clark Street.
Heritage Bicycle's Initiatives
The video above covers in more detail what Andersonville did, but I want to focus on Heritage Bicycles General Store for their work. Owners Michael and Melissa Salvatore have taken it to another level. Along with their local chamber of commerce, they set up a PeopleSpot, which I've enjoyed a couple of early Saturday mornings after a ride there. It features a nice shallow bench you can stretch out on as well as tables for a great outdoor cafe experience.
But the Salvatores weren't content with just that space. They decided to take the parking lot for their business and start a park: Heritage Park. They are, after all, a bike shop, so why would you need car parking? They decided to build another space for people to congregate and enjoy each other's company. It's a nice place to relax after a bike ride. It's also been a temporary dining area for Chicago's food trucks, as the trucks park in one of the two remaining spots and serve the masses. One of its cooler functions is as the location for Heritage movie night, so you can see some classic films and take in the night air. Long group bike rides also have a place to stop off during a big ride.
Who needs cars when you're hocking bikes and coffee? The Salvatores don't lack in creativity and this is one of their handsome rewards for thinking differently.
There are 6 picnic tables, shade umbrellas, some evergreens, and a newly installed bike rack. While you're enjoying the space, you might consider a bike or a coffee from Heritage. I've had both and couldn't be happier.
So, wander your city with some sod, find a parking spot, and get park(ing).
NOTE: Photos of Heritage Bicycles Heritage Park and PeopleSpot are from their Facebook page and video is from EcoAndersonville's PeopleSpot page (link above)