Parks don’t typically pop up in the middle of town overnight.
Thanks to a collaboration between the Temple University Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, the volunteer Park(ing) Day team, residents and civic organizations, that’s exactly what has happened in the heart of Doylestown four years running!
This year, the team transformed the corner of Hamilton and West State streets in Doylestown Borough into “a fleeting green oasis,” according to Temple University Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Associate Professor Baldev Lamba, who spearheaded and designed the project.
Park(ing) for People, a temporary “pop up” park, was open to the public from 12 p.m. Friday, September 21 through 12 p.m. Sunday, September 23. This community outreach effort was part of Park(ing) Day, a global event designed to bring attention to the need for more urban open space, spark discussions about how public space is created and allocated and improve the quality of the places in which we live and work, according to Lamba.
According to one of its founders, John Bela, “We tried to frame a number of things we thought were important about it, that this is an act of generosity” said Park(ing) Day founder John Bela. “It wasn’t necessarily about protest, but it was about demonstrating an alternative to storing cars in parking spaces.”
The goal of the project in Doylestown, Lamba said, “is to engage and celebrate pedestrians through a place created for people to ‘park’ instead of cars.”
“This is the fourth year for this event in Doylestown,” he said. “Last year’s Pop Up Park occupied Donaldson Alley and embraced the alleyway space to improve the quality of the urban habitat around it. The two year’s prior were in the parking lot of Starbucks and in front of the County Theater, right in the center of town.”
Since 2015, these temporary parks have not only created a gathering place for people, according to Lamba “they have also had an impact on the businesses in town.”
“Restaurants and shops near the parks have reported a 20 to 25 percent increase in sales during the weekend-long event,” he said. “What began as a project greeted with some skepticism about shifting space reserved for cars to spaces set aside for pedestrians, has become a popular exercise that has businesses now asking to be the next to have the installation in their parking areas!”
According to Lamba, Park(ing) for People is a true partnership between himself, Temple Ambler volunteers; the Park(ing) Day team of architects, horticulturists and landscape architects; and local businesses, civic organizations and Doylestown Borough.
“It’s a wonderfully energizing, fun and rewarding experience,” he said. “This year, the outpouring of encouragement for yet another Pop Up Park and offers of help from the community, I think, shows just how amazing people in the Doylestown area truly are.”
According to Doylestown resident, Jasmine Craig, the community is very excited for the return of Park(ing) Day.
“It showcases how to do community well by transforming public spaces into beautiful and functional community gathering spots,” she said.
All of the material from Park(ing) for People 2018 will be returned to the donors or reused within the community, Lamba said. The pop up park is 100 percent sustainable.
Several free family-friendly events were planned around the pop up park.
The grand opening began at 12 p.m. Friday, September 21 and include a ribbon cutting with Doylestown Mayor Ron Strouse and members of the Borough Council in addition to a concert by Fools & Prophets. A concert by the Cherry Lane Duo was also held on September 15, from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
On Saturday, September 22, community members were invited to join in “Morning Yoga in the Park” from 8 to 9 a.m. followed by “Pop-Up Story Time with the Doylestown Library” from 12 to 11 a.m. and “Fun with Busy Bee Toys" from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Music by Faye Meyer will follow from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, September 23 included “Kids’ Music with Miss Larissa," from 10 to 11 a.m.
Lamba is no stranger to the concept of pop up gardens. He coordinated the award-winning design of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s first pop up garden in 2011. Located at 20th and Market Streets, the garden took its inspiration from Temple’s award winning Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit — Écolibrium – French Traditions/Modern Interpretations — from the same year. While that park was a touch larger — 32,000 square feet — the message and premise is the same as the Doylestown pop up parks, Lamba said.
“It’s about changing mindsets. It’s showing people that urban centers can have areas that are green, innovative and inviting,” he said. “It builds a sense of community. It’s such a unique concept. No one expects to see a park just spring up in a parking lot or alley, and our temporary parks have been in the most active parts of the borough.”