Few Tucsonans have been lucky enough to miss out on the aggravation associated with parking downtown on a weekend. Streets are filled with lines of bar-goers and various food trucks, while roads are blocked off for special events and traffic is backed to Fourth Avenue. But that’s all about to change.
Saturday, members of Living Streets Alliance, the Sustainable City Project and the UA College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture are encouraging the community to take back Tucson’s street space.
“We wanted to implement a project that would allow people a location to gather and develop community and have an opportunity to have a real conversation about our streets and our public space,” said Linda Samuels, project director for the Sustainable City Project.
Following the lead of Rebar Art & Design Studio in San Francisco and similar events in many other cities throughout the country, Tucson is adapting a nationally celebrated event called Park(ing) Day.
“We want to bring some designs to downtown. We believe that the architects and landscape architects and planners should have a high bar for this design downtown,” Samuels said. “We didn’t say it had to be expensive, but it had to be beautiful.”
Beginning Saturday at 8 a.m., a team of 10 people from CAPLA, along with volunteers from LSA and SCP, will transform parking spaces downtown into green spaces called “parklets.” These parklets are mini, interactive parks designed to give patrons a place to rest or participate in activities, according to Bernardo Teran, a design team member and architecture senior.
“The idea is to bring to attention to what can happen in the confines of the parking space, what activity can happen within this parking space, what can promote sustainable means of transportation — such as bicycle riding and walking, instead of being so dependent on cars,” Teran said.
The teams have created structures from reused oriented strand board wood, AstroTurf, chalkboards and pallets to construct a theme similar that of the Warehouse Arts District, said Cesar Rodriguez, a member of the Park(ing) Day design team.
“What we’ve created is sort of this dynamic mound of pallets to sit down and lay down,” Rodriguez added. “People are going to be able to sit down on these different types of pallets and observe what’s happening.”
Over the past few weeks, students and volunteers worked to create pallets that serve as visual and interactive attractions for the community.
“This is definitely … a movement that’s growing,” Rodriguez said. “It’s something that everyone can do, and we, as a college, decided to take on this task.”
The event is happening in collaboration with the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association’s Fall Bike Swap Meet. It will also include participation by local businesses Exo Roast Co. and Tap & Bottle, as well as a DJ.
In addition to the displays made by volunteers, Park(ing) Day will feature an interactive “Build Your Own City” model in which passersby will be able to create their own parklet using Legos.
“With everything that’s been happening in the past half-century, and everyone being dependent on cars, we felt this was really important,” Teran said.
According to Teran, the goal for LSA, SCP and CAPLA is to encourage Tucsonans to share their streets and continue to go green.
“It’s important for people to reimagine what spaces can be,” Rodriguez said. “There’s density issues with how the city has become this urban sprawl mecca. … It’s important for people in the city to reimagine the existing and what it can become.”
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