Tobin Hays holds an umbrella in the Ford Powell & Carson pop-up park.
Tobin Hays holds an umbrella in the Ford Powell & Carson pop-up park on PARK(ing) Day. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA San Antonio) helped take over part of McCullough Avenue Friday to showcase dreams for the area’s future Friday, as six curbside parking spaces had their pavement transformed into tiny public parks to celebrate the third annual PARK(ing) Day.

The event, which allowed various architectural firms and McCullough Avenue stakeholders a 9-feet by 22-feet space to showcase their vision for a revamped McCullough Avenue, was part of an initiative by the McCullough Avenue Consortium as it pushes for neighborhood improvements along the corridor.

PARK(ing) Day happens once a year across the country on the third Friday in September. The event began in San Francisco in 2005, when a landscape design firm turned one parking space into a temporary public park. Since then, more than 700 PARK(ing) Day events have happened yearly around the world.

Proposed designs for McCullough Avenue by San Antonio architects were printed out and displayed on easels along the sidewalk. Torrey Stanley Carlton, executive director of AIA San Antonio, said this year’s PARK(ing) Day functioned as a way to bring community members into the reimagining process.

“What does the community want on McCullough?” she asked. “How does McCullough connect east and west, north and south? How does it connect to the river? How does it express the values of those in the neighborhood? We want to have an open community conversation about people’s dreams for McCullough, ideas for how they can live, work, play on McCullough.”

Carlton said every year’s PARK(ing) Day events show how areas designated for street parking can be more valuable when transformed.

“You could have a park bench, you could have games, you could have a place where children could play,” Carlton said. “PARK(ing) Day talks about less land dedicated to parking and more land dedicated to people.”

While the overall idea behind Friday’s event was to share visions of McCullough Avenue improvements, some of the parking spaces were simply dedicated to interpretations of ways to make that part of San Antonio better.

The San Antonio River Authority displayed bioretention systems, which take stormwater and filter out pollutants through different layers of soil and gravel. Stormwater analyst Michelle E. Garza explained they could be installed as bike paths or by trees along the sidewalks, as stormwater carries pollutants like oils, grease, gases, and sediment.

“We wanted to incorporate some kind of stormwater runoff cleaning, to filter stormwater [on McCullough Avenue],” Garza said. “A lot of people don’t know our storm drains live right next to the river.”

In a parking space filled with plants and fenced off with wooden pallets, Christian Assistance Ministry offered board games, free seeds and sack lunches, and a raffle for house plants and citrus trees. Kyle Breon, an office manager with the ministry, said the organization wanted to show their mission of sharing their “harvest” with others.

“We’re down the road, so you can volunteer with us,” Breon said. “You can live here and give here. And as younger people move into the area, it’s a great first step to volunteering.”

Metropolitan Methodist Hospital’s mini-park featured chair yoga and chair massages. Evelyn Gutierrez, director of emergency services the hospital on McCullough Avenue, said the hospital’s goal was to address the health of the mind, body, and soul. She added that she hopes when McCullough Avenue does undergo revitalization, developers keep preventative health in mind. She suggested a space for meditation or an exercise area.

“We’re a hospital, so people come to us when they’re sick, but our focus is also preventative,” Gutierrez said.

Last year, PARK(ing) Day took place in front of City Hall, while Broadway Street hosted the event the year before.

A community block party, complete with food trucks and live music at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio, was scheduled for later in the evening.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.