Columbia transforming parking spaces into 'social spaces'
COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia is giving citizens new and interesting ways to use parking spaces. On Friday, Columbia will be participating for the first time in PARK(ing) Day, a global movement that encourages people to use parking spaces for things other than parking.
GetAbout Columbia, in partnership with Columbia Parks and Recreation, is allowing residents to transform both metered and unmetered parking spots into social gathering spaces called "parklets." These are meant to be temporarily "green" spaces that serve as an extension of the sidewalk and to remind people that a parking spot can belong to more than just an automobile.
Residents who want to participate in PARK(ing) day can choose a public parking space or location anywhere in the community to transform into a unique public space. Janet Gordon of Columbia Parks and Recreation said there is no limit to the number of spaces someone can reserve, but 24 hours notice was required to reserve a parking meter for a full day.
People also have the option to choose a free public parking space anywhere in Columbia, like in a neighborhood or strip mall. If residents wanted to reserve a meter for the day, they could pay $8 for a plastic meter cover or simply fund the meter all day.
Some Columbia residents worry the event will mean even less parking than normal in the downtown area.
"There are businesses that I would like to run into, and you have to park three or four blocks away just to even get near it," said Columbia resident Brandy Forrest. "So with the spaces being taken, it's probably going to impact business for that time period."
Some downtown businesses are choosing to participate in a different way.
"We first thought we wouldn't do it because we feel that there is a problem with parking downtown, and we didn't want to add to that. But then after talking about it, we came up with the idea of doing something that would be a 'parklet' but not on the street," said Bluestem Missouri Crafts Partner Laura Bullion.
Bluestem Missouri Crafts will hold its 'parklet' on the sidewalk outside of the store, complete with bluestem grass and chairs that Bullion and staff reupholstered.
"We hope it will be a nice space for someone to sit and relax for a moment," said Bullion.
Bullion also paid to reserve the parking spaces in front of the store for the day, so they could prohibit others from reserving and obstructing them for PARK(ing) Day.
"This way we can allow them to be free parking spaces for the day," said Bullion. "It's our opportunity to say that a lot can be done to beuaitfy the sidewalk, and we can do it without obstructing people walking or traffic of any kind."