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2017 Park(ing) Day with SPO and Friends: Taking Back the Tar

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

Every September, planners, designers, and citizens reinvent ordinary parking spaces into creative platforms. These automobile-dedicated areas are occupied and transformed into public parks, art exhibits, live music venues, bike workshops, and many other uses for the annual worldwide event: Park(ing) Day. By highlighting the alternative uses of parking spaces, the urban parking landscape is re-envisioned into a lively place full of social activity. This method of place-making is beneficial by highlighting how much space parking takes up in our cities.

The Student Planning Organization (SPO) at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign participated in this event by hosting nine diverse spaces in Downtown Champaign on September 22nd .

Through months of planning and preparation, SPO spearheaded the PARK(ing) Day 2017 event. By collaborating with different groups ranging from local businesses to student organizations, SPO activated nine individual parking spaces in an area of Champaign that is often heavily congested with a combination of automobiles and pedestrian traffic. The area of Walnut St. and Chester St. in Champaign, IL was selected specifically because of its large concentration of on-street parking.

Spaces were hosted by different organizations with SPO acting as oversight of the event. Planners Network hosted two spaces that included a live music stage and a seating area under the name “RE-Public”. The City of Champaign Planning and Development Department transformed a space into a miniature plaza with public input areas for a planned downtown park.

Two spaces were installed with interactive art exhibits hosted by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transit Study (CUUATS) created a roundabout in their space with scooters to educate the public on their implementation around Champaign County. A local bike shop, Neutral Cycle, hosted a free bike repair clinic in one space. The School of Art Education at UIUC, specifically the ARTE 475 course, transformed a space into an art creation studio. The Student Planning Organization space- or command central-was a welcome area to the event to coordinate all the participants, volunteers, and equipment setup.

Video courtesy of UI-7

All of this started as a simple idea, a group of ambitious and dedicated students, and the incredibly supportive members of the American Planning Association- Illinois Chapter. The positive support of the APA-IL inspired the Student Planning Organization to realize their vision. Together with the generous support of the American Planning Association- Illinois Chapter, UIUC Facilities and Services, the City of Champaign, Planners Network, and local community leaders, the Champaign PARK(ing) Day 2017 event was a wonderful success.

Many community members stopped to enjoy the spaces and learn about the event. Total attendance was counted at over 150 people engaging with the spaces. Passersby joined in to help with the setup and encouraged the students to continue the event next year. The overwhelmingly positive response has ignited a fervor among the Student Planning Organization to continue Park(ing) Day for years to come.

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