Rethinking The Asphalt Parking Spot

Imagine a parking spot. Typically a slab of asphalt waiting for the next vehicle to roll on by. Now imagine that spot transformed into a green oasis among the urban jungle for an entire day. That’s what happened recently when the national event, Parking Day, came to Anchorage. The event was hosted by the Anchorage park Foundation, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, and Anchorage Downtown Partnership. 

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Add some marshmellows, coffee and some tunes and you get an asphalt makeover. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.

Instead of cars, parking spaces all over town were occupied by tents, turf, volunteers, and booths offering a variety of activities for people passing by to participate in. Smoke rolled out from the fire pits and barbeques, music floated down the sidewalks, and the green of plants and trees strategically placed in each location added some color to the otherwise gray backdrop.

Beth Nordlund, executive director of the Anchorage Park Foundation, led the effort to bring the project to Anchorage.

“I don’t know when parking day was originated, but we have someone who used to live in New York City and has seen it really done up and wanted to see if we could be the most northern site in the country for parking day, and I think we are. We’ve been thinking about it and dreaming about it for a few years and this year someone decided to make it happen.”

Companies from around Anchorage set up and sponsored the parking lots. SPAWN Ideas and Snow Goose Cafe teamed up to provide hotdogs and live music. Intrinsic Landscapes built a 20 foot long wooden structure with stairs and benches for people to relax and enjoy. Some, like Anna Brawley, an associate with Agnew Beck Consulting, took a warm camp-style approach on the damp and slightly chilly day.

“You guys want a s’more? Yeah, we thought we’d have a real homey camping set up. We have a fire pit and a tent if it starts raining again and just kind of inviting people in from the street.”

Many people walking by couldn’t help but stop and see what was going on. As the rain lightened up and lunch time rolled around more people ventured outside to the booths. Groups stopped by to grab a snack and others huddled under the tents close to the fire pits to warm up. Bree Kessler, who visited all of the booths downtown, enjoyed the change in scenery.

“I thought it was a really great way for people to think about how might we use parking spaces in a different way.”

While the parking spots are now back to serving their original purpose, the idea that a dull space can be temporarily transformed into something exciting, could stick around for a while. In Anchorage, I’m Ashley Snyder.