Post-pope visit in Philly (with too much media hubbub to boot), I can’t think of a better time to celebrate Flying Kite Media and their very relevant ‘On the Ground Campaign’, which officially got a big reboot earlier this year. The Campaign is a ‘take the news to the people’ effort that focuses on hyper local news both from and about neighbourhoods that typically don’t make headlines. No pope allowed!
New York may have dominated headlines regarding big tactical urbanism efforts in years past. But it’s New York’s near neighbour Philadelphia that might be the U.S’s real tactical capital. Rife with small-scale interventions making for a big collective change, Philly’s upswing in public space improvements is changing the way other cities do pop-up.
Calling all tactical efforts in the city ‘small’ might be selling things short. The city’s newest parklet was just installed near Penn’s campus, and it’s massive. At 60 feet (18m) its one of the longest parklets ever built.
It’s one of 5 major parklets scattered around the neighbourhood. UCD, the local community organization who maintains them, recently published the nationally-acclaimed study: "The Case for Parklets: Measuring the Impact on Sidewalk Vitality and Neighborhood Businesses." The study provided data and recommendations based on a multi-year analysis of parklets and their ability to bring more life to public spaces.
The study has given pop-up efforts the quantitative bona fides to make similar improvements across the country. But in Philly, anecdotal evidence has fueled pop-up success; none more so than the buzz behind the now infamous Philly beer garden scene.
The Spruce Street Harbor Park has so far been the stand out. The temporary summertime village is now in its second year and has upgraded the down and out waterfront area with a floating restaurant, weekend beer garden, hammocks, shuffleboard, and hundreds of thousands of visitors.
And in true pop-up style, the space’s cheep and cheerful successes have drummed up support for long-term solutions for improving the waterfront. Above all, this is the true power of the pop-up paradigm and one that’s been observed for years. Short-term improvements can and do lead to long-term change.
So it's no surprise that across town Philly’s most famously awesome pop-up, The Porch, has now began to improve with permanent features. The Porch started as a temporary experiment to breathe life into what was a parking lot next to 30th Street Station, the City’s main transport hub. That was 4 years ago. Now the folks behind the Porch have teamed up with Groundswell Design Group and Gehl Studio to enhance the space with more permanent planters, seating, lighting and food options that compliment the popular programming schedule.
The City of Philadelphia has also taken note of this movement across its city. In recent years they’ve implemented a Pedestrian Plaza Program to grease the wheels for neighbourhood groups to build their own pop-ups, and with a solid revenue stream from city coffers. That too has been pretty awesome for improving open spaces in Philly’s neighbourhoods.
If the past is a measure of future successes, it isn’t likely Philly’s pop-up revolution will slow down. Maybe we’ll see floating beer gardens down the Delaware next year? Or roller skate rinks along Market Street? At this point, nothing seems totally off limits. Lets just hope it stays as equally awesome as years past.
In late September the 9th annual International PARK(ing) Day was celebrated across 6 continents, 35 countries and over 160 cities. But let me back up, this project had very modest beginnings in 2005. The scale of success was never imaged when the project first began.
The original project was born out of a desire to draw attention to the fact that over 70% of San Francisco’s public space was dedicated to the private automobile. Rebar wanted to challenge the status quo and make an innovative, creative point. The idea was simple, yet effective.
By paying the parking meter fee, urban space can be leased on a short-term basis for an alternative use then its original purpose. From this idea a single parking spot was transformed into a temporary public park. The original PARK was erected for two hours. When the meter expired, the temporary park was deconstructed. When a single photograph of the project began circulating around the Internet, Rebar began receiving requests to create a PARK(ing) project in other cities. Instead of duplicating the same installation, a how-to manual was developed to empower international communities to create their own parks. With this, “PARK(ing) Day” was born.
Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has been adapted, modified and reinvented. Each year, the project seems to highlight another urban challenge. The original PARK(ing) project asked citizens to reconsider how they valued public spaces. It challenged the notion that planning decisions are permanent and sought to deconstruct traditional perceptions of public spaces.
In recent years, projects have expanded beyond calling attention to the lack of green space in urban areas. Free health clinics, temporary urban farms, political seminars, art installations, bike repair shops and a wedding ceremony have all taken place in a parking space.
These examples illustrate the power of the PARK(ing) Project. It encourages local communities to draw attention to missing neighborhood attributes. This project fosters an entrepreneurial, creative spirit that can only make people smile as they walk past these pop-up installations. PARK(ing) Day also provides the opportunity for local communities to highlight areas for improvement and ask local authorities to address these issues.