Landscape architects Sikora Wells Appel and Knolltop Nursery joined with Community Bikes and Boards to create a pop-up beach scene on Kings Highway and celebrate the creative re-use of parking spaces.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 16, 2016
On Friday, cities around the world will participate in PARK(ing) Day, a volunteer event dedicated to transforming metered parking spaces into temporary public places.
Begun in San Francisco 11 years ago by the Rebar group, the event intends “to explore the range of possible activities” for the “short-term lease” of a parking space, “and to provoke a critical examination of the values that generate the form of urban public space.”
On Friday, a trio of Haddonfield businesses will collaborate to bring the event to South Jersey for the first time, showing off the potential of the broad streets of its Kings Highway downtown shopping district.
Landscape architect Joseph Sikora said he’d first heard of PARK(ing) Day in Philadelphia when his firm, Sikora Wells Appel, was still located there. Although the concept is typically implemented in urban settings, he thought it “would probably be a fresh idea” in Haddonfield.
Sikora pitched the idea to Community Bikes and Boards owner Rob Everitt, and brought in Al Masullo of Knolltop Nursery to help execute it. Haddonfield borough commissioners gave the project their blessing, and the team went to work.
“Everyone was totally excited about it,” Sikora said.Based on the idea that sand offers dramatic and inexpensive ground cover, the concept for the space is a 41-foot, pop-up beach.
Everitt sourced wood pallets to build a makeshift boardwalk, and Knolltop added dune grass for ornamentation.
Sikora purchased a four-feet-high wooden snow fence, and enhanced it with vinyl graphics.
The group rounded out the look with beach chairs, umbrellas, and coolers.
Without a dedicated budget—all three businesses are volunteering their time, labor, and materials—keeping costs and set-up/clean-up minimal was a priority for the one-day project.
“We have zero dollars,” Sikora said. “We’re creative in terms of recycling parts or getting them for free. That’s how you do it. If you have to buy everything for this, it doesn’t work.”
Sikora hopes the project will show “what inexpensively activating a public space can do” and “maybe plant a seed for other ways of thinking.”
From 10 a.m. to about 7 p.m. Friday, representatives from all three businesses will spend time with visitors to the site “and have an open dialogue about what this means to them,” Sikora said.
“We’ll document it as well, and use it as another example of the positive benefits these temporary installations can have for a community,” he said.
“I just lucked out that [Sikora] brought all his skill,” Everitt said.
“I had seen little parking space takeovers, but I’d never seen a one-day green space go into a parking space.”
Everitt said he is most engaged by the sustainability aspect of the project.
He is proud to have diverted the pallets from a landfill, and said he hopes the event inspires greater attention to environmental issues.
“Think about how beautiful our parks and oceans are, and think about what it takes to keep them beautiful and green,” Everitt said. “I wish it could stay up year-round. I think it’s awesome. I wish we were able to do it more.”
As the only of the three business owners to dedicate a centrally located parking space to the event, Everitt said he doesn’t mind giving it up for the day, or for longer.
“What would a block do if every parking spot out front was another cool table, bench, or another place where you could put product to sell?,” he said.
“Do you know how many people would come to our block?”
Sikora agreed, saying the amount of parking available in Haddonfield isn’t as much of an issue as the perception of its scarcity.
“There are better uses for parking spaces, and [we’re] trying to encourage people to utilize other methods of getting to work,” Masullo added. “That’s the key to this.”
Brad DiPadova, who managed the project for Knolltop, said PARK(ing) Day can help get suburban communities to acknowledge how much real estate they devote to parking.
“There are so many things you can do with that little parcel of land,” DiPadova said.
“People are realizing that we have more opportunities to create small park spaces that we can use instead of having central parks.”
At a previous PARK(ing) Day event in Doylestown, PA, DiPadova said reactions were almost uniformly positive.
“People love it,” he said. “One of the main comments you get is, ‘Can you leave this up for longer? Can it be permanent?’ Rather than looking at a car in front of your shop, it’s a great way to activate a space.”
Somewhat ironically, the 24-hour display will yield its turf to an auto show along Kings Highway the following day.
DiPadova calls it “a funny juxtaposition,” but he’s not critical.
Pop-up spaces, by definition, aren’t meant to last forever. Plus, closing down Kings Highway for a street fair is just another example of creatively reclaiming a space typically dominated by vehicle traffic.
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