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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Toledo parking spots become parks for a day

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Manhattan's space featured a boat and dock theme on Adams Street. Manhattan's space featured a boat and dock theme on Adams Street.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Friday was just a walk in the parks on Adams Street.

Taking a cue from San Francisco, Toledo’s Uptown Association took over 29 parking spaces along Adams and allowed its members to create individual pavement parks over a seven-hour span.

Like many trends that gradually work their way to Toledo, the Park(ing) Day idea began in California in 2005 when a single metered parking space was turned into a temporary public park in an area of San Francisco.

The 25-year-old Toledo group was exploring special events to promote the neighborhood when it came across the idea, said Julie Champa, executive director of the Uptown Association.

“The goal was to bring some attention to Uptown and the proposed green space in an urban environment,” Ms. Champa said.

For the Uptown Association, the event dovetails into its goal of creating a 2.4-acre urban park and playground on Madison Avenue bounded by 18th Street, Laburnum Lane, and 20th Street.

PHOTO GALLERY: Park(ing) Day

 Businesses and schools take up parking spaces for Park(ing) Day on Adams Street in downtown Toledo, Ohio. This is Manhattan's space, a boat/dock theme. Businesses and schools take up parking spaces for Park(ing) Day on Adams Street in downtown Toledo, Ohio. This is Manhattan's space, a boat/dock theme.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

In the meantime, along Adams Street from 10th Street to its intersection with Jackson Street, members of the Uptown group transformed patches of asphalt into mini pavement parks.

The Toledo School for the Arts had a group of dancers doing performance art alongside their building.

Outside the Toledo City Paper near the corner of 12th Street, a patch of turf was placed in the street with a picnic table and a croquet set.

Staff member Christy Panka said the original idea was to develop an Alice in Wonderland theme, but she ended up with more of an urban park setting.

Anchoring the other end of Adams, Manhattan’s restaurant ditched the urban park concept altogether and built a boat dock that led from the patio into the street. A rowboat equipped with fishing tackle completed the water park theme.

“I always wanted my restaurant to be on the waterfront and this is just a manifestation of that,” said co-owner Marty Lahey, decked out in his boat shoes, white slacks, Hawaiian shirt, and Panama hat.

Kate Abu-Absi, director of UT’s Arts Living and Learning Community, brought some of her first-year students to the event, where a tent and tree created with recycled materials were set up.

“This has been such a great experience for them,” she said.

For them the event provided their first exposure to downtown and the Uptown neighborhoods. The University of Toledo occupied five of the 29 spaces.

The park for a day project brought back memories of Toledo’s attempt to transform part of downtown into a garden spot in 1959 that was closed to vehicular traffic. Back in the day, downtown was a thriving shopping district in its own right.

“I remember that as a kid. It was pretty awesome,” Mr. Lahey said.

Kate Abu-Absi, director of the UT Arts Living and Learning Community, relaxes under a 'tree' on her park on Adam's Street during Park(ing) Day. She's with Justin Maxwell and ukulele player Matt Muha, both students at the University of Toledo.  UT occupied five of the 29 spaces. Kate Abu-Absi, director of the UT Arts Living and Learning Community, relaxes under a 'tree' on her park on Adam's Street during Park(ing) Day. She's with Justin Maxwell and ukulele player Matt Muha, both students at the University of Toledo. UT occupied five of the 29 spaces.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Pedestrian malls were established on Adams Street and Madison Avenue between St. Clair and Huron streets, which were closed to vehicles. Playgrounds and fountains were surrounded by flowers, trees and shrubs to create a tranquil oasis. That venture was abandoned in November, 1960.

The current attempt to transform Adams Street into miniparks, like the mysterious Scottish village of Brigadoon, also vanished last night.

Ms. Champa called the Park(ing) Day an unqualified success that will be expanded on next year. The initial goal was to have 12 installations, but 29 lined the street between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The Uptown Association, which counts about 65 members, is bounded by Washington Street to Jackson and Adams streets, from 10th Street to Collingwood Boulevard.

The San Francisco organizers say their annual event, held on the third Friday in September, has turned into a worldwide event that involves artists, activists, and residents turning parking spots into temporary public parks and other spaces.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: jsielicki@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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