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CAP Students Claim Their (Parking) Space in 2016 Park(ing) Day

Friday, September 16, 2016

Today, CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) students from several programs—including urban and regional planning and landscape architecture—turned the corner of 14th Street and Larimer Street in downtown Denver into a tribute to the internationally-recognized Park(ing) Day. The event, which is always hosted on the third September of the year, provides communities an opportunity to work together to change metered parking spaces into temporary public places.

In 2016, the continued, rapid development of Denver’s urban core provides prime examples of what a city potentially gives up in character, form, environmental benefits and aesthetics to subsidize on-street and garage parking. Though the number of available parking spots slightly reduced in the past half-decade (likely due to the conversion of attractive real estate into more lucrative development), according to Streetsblog Denver, there were still 42,009 parking spots in downtown Denver as of 2014. Given that parking spots can roughly be up to 200 square feet, that’s more than 8.4 million square feet of concrete dedicated to parking downtown!

At today’s event, well over 100 people stopped by CAP’s display, which obtained permits from the City and County of Denver for two parking spots near the CAP building. Overall, CU Denver American Planning Association Student (APAS) Vice-President Lorin Crandall considered the day a success.

“Park(ing) Day is a great opportunity to call attention to the sheer scale of space sacrificed to subsidize the convenience of parking a personal automobile anywhere in the city. Hopefully, as we transition to a transportation system without so much reliance on personal ownership of cars, and with increased autonomous vehicle functionality, we will see parking transformed into more beneficial uses, such as bio-swales and major bikeways,” Crandall said.

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Working in concert with the American Institute of Architects and American Society of Landscape Architects student groups, APAS coordinated this year’s project, including the design of the parking spaces. With reuse and recycling of materials an important concept of Park(ing) Day, students began by covering the concrete with carpet from second-hand sources to change the identity of the space. Students also furnished and decorated the area with camping chairs and wrought iron outdoor seats, divider boards, a pop-up tent and plants. Renderings of the parking spots’ schematic design, as well as information regarding the statistics of car idleness and other related topics, helped enhance the space.

Throughout the day, visitors to the space engaged with students about the purpose of the event, read, focused on professional and school work, or simply hung out and conversed. The students also involved passerbys with games on the steps of CAP, which attracted additional attention to the day’s activities.

For 2017’s Park(ing) Day, CAP is considering numerous additions to its current approach, including partnering with a non-profit organization, such as the Denver Dumb Friends League; uniting with a local food truck; or hosting a design competition during the summer prior to attract and vet schematic concepts.

Overall, CAP’s participation in Park(ing) Day highlights the different choices that citizens in urban centers face each day about their transportation choices, and how this affects the city as a whole. The more real estate dedicated to parking is less space devoted to other uses, such as public spaces, economic development activities, or housing that could increase stock for those with lower to moderate incomes.

While the original Park(ing) Day—which began in San Francisco in 2005 by an art and design studio—focused largely on the aesthetic concerns of parking spaces, the global event has now taken on expanded meanings when examining the costs and benefits of dedicating parking in the urban core.

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