By Heyden Walker, Walk Austin board member
On a Friday in mid-September, nearly 20 parking spaces along the streets of Austin became people spaces. Walk Austin teamed up with other local organizations to coordinate this tactical placemaking as part of International PARK(ing) Day, this year on Sept. 21.
The annual event’s mission – which has grown in popularity and scope since its inception in 2005 – is to raise awareness, through temporary, low-cost interventions, about the possibilities of rethinking how we use urban space. This year’s event brought thousands of people together in hundreds of cities around the world to turn single parking spaces into parklets for people to enjoy and congregate in.
Walk Austin was involved on several levels in bringing the movement to Austin’s streets. Board member Heyden Black Walker, of Black + Vernooy architecture and urban design, assisted with coordinating the 18 installations located throughout the city, with many in downtown. Activities and installations – put together by organizations as diverse as the Austin Parks Foundation and TBG Partners as well as motivated individuals – included giant chess, a canopy of green balloons, hopscotch, tic tac toe, hacky sack, street musicians and various food and drink offerings.
Walk Austin also partnered with the conservation nonprofit The Nature Conservancy Texas, the engineering firm Civilitude, the urban design and landscape architecture firm Asakura Robinson and the UT–Austin initiative Planet Texas 2050 to create “Parlor in the Park” at 316 Congress Ave. The installation featured a green astroturf carpet floor; comfortable, stylish chairs for relaxing; planters creating a streetside barrier from traffic lanes; and plenty of free goodies, including popsicles from GoodPop, tote bags, sunglasses, water bottles, stickers and more.
In addition, board members Adam Greenfield and Katie Deolloz helped organize installations and led two Walk Austin-organized walking tours of the downtown spaces.
We hope to expand PARK(ing) Day next year to encompass even more installations and organizations. Join us on Friday September 20, 2019.
We encourage you to think about putting together your own space and to support this grassroots effort to move the needle towards a walkable Austin!