From parking spaces to parking lots

There seems to be all kinds of temporary transformation going on this month in parking places downtown. During the Design Festival, it was Park(ing) Day, where spaces for cars were changed into places to sit and have a coffee, do some work, or enjoy art.

This past weekend, it was at Nuit Blanche. Now Nuit Blanche doesn’t actually have anything to do with parking lots – it’s an all-night celebration of contemporary art. Exhibits pop up for an evening and are gone by morning, galleries stay open all night, and parties break out in unexpected spots! And this year, two of the events that really stood out to me were in – of all places – parking lots.

Normally I spend a lot of my time on here letting you guys know about cool events, restaurants, and news – but I’m going to get on my soapbox for a minute here if that’s OK.

We’ve got a LOT of surface parking lots downtown – in my opinion, way more than we need or should have. Check this out – a handy map of them that architect Brent Bellamy created a while ago.

Red = surface parking lots
Red = surface parking lots

Everything red is a surface parking lot – spaces that are basically dead zones. There’s no activity beyond people pulling their cars in and out, no pedestrian activity at all. To me, they’re basically giant mood-killers to walk by.

Except last Saturday – two of my very favourite exhibits of Nuit Blanche turned them into places jammed with people. First, glow in the park(ing) lot. I was excited to see if before, and it didn’t disappoint – there were kids, adults, at one point a party on wheels of 300 cyclists with a portable sound system, all out and enjoying a space that’s normally a sea of empty concrete and cars! People were walking and cycling to and from it – you could really imagine what it would be like if this was a space that was meant for people instead of parking. photo2

And then there was this fabulous madness – called electric kool-aid almond test (because why not).

photoSeriously, can you believe this is a parking lot? It’s the lot behind the Deer + Almond – and for one night, it was also a concert venue, an art gallery, and a gathering place.

So, how can we change some of these lots into places for people permanently? Cause now that I’ve seen what they CAN be, I don’t want to go back. /end soapbox