See the Park in a Parking Lot

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How university students re-imagined parking spaces in the heart of downtown Toronto

On September 17th, 2021, students from the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) collaborated with Urban Minds, a local nonprofit agency dedicated to making cities more sustainable, to celebrate Park(ing) Day. 

Park(ing) Day began in 2005 by Rebar and temporarily repurposes street parking into public spaces. This collaboration between Urban Minds and the School of Urban and Regional Planning at TMU came into fruition during a weekly warmup to initiate first-year students. These students were challenged to re-envision the space in front of their faculty’s building on Bond Street so that it served their needs and the needs of the broader community. Their proposal was then presented to Spin and Better Block, nonprofits that provide grants to community projects. 

Once they decided to go ahead, the event came together in under 30 minutes. A plain, flat concrete road became transformed with a few artificial flowers and potted plants, astroturf, and pallets-turned-benches. A potted cedar tree took center stage, populated with notes from the community sharing their ideas. A tune-up station had tools for bike repair, and a mini farmers’ market sold fruits and vegetables grown on the rooftop of the university’s buildings. 

This event brought over 50 community members, students, and faculty together for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. It proved the powerful impact public spaces have and how they can emerge from just two parking spaces, clear from the words of encouragement to incoming students, words of wisdom from upper years, and tips on hidden gems around campus found in the handwritten notes on the cedar.  

Park(ing) Day is a demonstration that helps us to move away from preconceived notions and assumptions that are so ingrained to new ways of doing things

Angela Ng, co-founder of Urban Minds

Angela Ng, the co-founder of Urban Minds, encourages those who are interested in replicating similar events in their community to just do it! “Events like Park(ing) Day matter because they help people see new possibilities and change their mindsets on how public spaces in our cities can be used,” she says. “In most people’s minds, on-street parking spaces serve one purpose only, which is to park cars. But Park(ing) Day is a demonstration that helps us to move away from preconceived notions and assumptions that are so ingrained to new ways of doing things. It gets us to ask the important question of “what if?” about our city.”

While this was a one-time funding opportunity, Angela maintains that “if Urban Minds is able to secure funding and partner with the School of Urban and Regional Planning again, for sure, we will probably see another Park(ing) Day event this upcoming September.”

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Catherine Zita Dias
Catherine Zita Dias
Catherine Zita Dias is an undergraduate student at the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) where she studies Media Production. She is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of The Continuist at TMU and a social media creator for Webseries Canada. Catherine envisions a career in film and/or publication industries after graduation.

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