Group aims to spark downtown buzz with “parklet”

Sep. 19, 2013 @ 05:37 PM

Where some might see an empty parking lot, Ryan Saunders and Steve Hollingsworth see opportunity.
The two are part of a group of local young people working to seize the momentum of the New Urbanism revitalization concepts suggested for High Point by architect Andres Duany.
High on the list of priorities is bringing more activity to the center city, and Saunders and Hollingsworth are trying to take a step in this direction with a “National Park(ing) Day” event planned for Friday.
The idea is to transform parking spaces into “temporary parks” for artists, designers and general creative uses.
Saunders — the founder of a grassroots revitalization movement called Create Your City that works to implement the Ignite High Point ideas touted by Duany — said the event was inspired by examples in cities like San Francisco, where residents “rented” metered parking spaces by filling them with quarters and then putting down sod and chairs on top of the pavement.
“If you look at downtown High Point, we really don’t have a park, so the idea is to provide several miniparks — places to gather, go do homework, read, meet friends. It provides a meeting place and focal point for people who want to spend time downtown,” Saunders said. “That’s kind of the mantra of Ignite High Point — give the creative, innovative people with ideas a little leeway and let them see what they can contribute to the city.”
To that end, the group will set up a “parklet” from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at 201 W. English Road in the parking lot shared by French Interiors and Freeman’s Tire Center.
The mobile public gathering place made from pallet boards has a floor, a wall that doubles as a bicycle rack, tables and benches. It’s about 20 feet long and 7 feet wide.
Hollingsworth said the parklet is the same one he built for the “Hopfest” event held downtown a few weeks ago. He constructed it in such a way that it can be disassembled and transported in his truck, he said.
It’s an example of the type of “tactical urbanism” Duany touted during his visit to High Point in May, where anyone can make short-term use of spaces like vacant parking lots.
Saunders said Tipsy’z Tavern & Grill will have a food truck on site during the event. He said organizers thought about bringing in a band but opted for a public drum circle, where anyone can offer their musical talents.
“It’s part of the spirit of collaboration and community,” Saunders said. “From a tambourine, guitar, bongo and even a washboard, everyone just plays together and shockingly, it somehow works.”