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Dozens Of San Antonians Transform Parking Spots Into Mini Parks As Part of Global Event

San Antonio's has grown the number of its parks exponentially. But just for a day.

(Park)ing Day, the global event where parking spaces are turned into mini parks, brings more than a dozen collaborative parks and exhibits to downtown on Main and Broadway streets.

More than two dozen people worked quickly on Main Street to set up their designs, filling the spots for cars with something more idyllic.

“It engages with folks to show them that we should be able to use these spaces for something useful all day, rather than a parked car that sits there all day,” said Alexandra Frey, executive director of the 80|20 Foundation.

A man paints an installation for The Down Market and United By Design
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
A man paints an installation for The Down Market and United By Design

Her organization along with Centro San Antonio organized the event. 80|20 sponsored each of the parks with $1,000 a piece. And the parks come in many shapes and sizes.

Standing over a bucket of white paint, United By Design's AJ Rose is giving instructions to a hunched over collaborator who will make some last minute changes to the group's 10-foot high free-standing mural exhibit.

"We're doing an interactive art experience," said Rose, who then explained that while the five murals depict the Powerpuff Girls, Samurai and other two-dimensional art, with a smartphone or tablet, the viewer can unlock many layers of augmented reality art on top.

"Short Answer for us is we do it for culture creativity and community, for people to experience beyond just the norm,” said Jael Sundown, with The Down Market, who also worked on the installation.

A man sets up Geekdom's installation on Parking Day
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
A man sets up Geekdom's installation on Parking Day

In what would have been about three cars worth of parking on Main Street the installation is definitely beyond the norm and joins a tiki themed lounge, a custom built wooden sitting area and a bar designed to allow cyclists to pull up for a coffee or meeting without getting off their bikes.

The idea of swapping car spots for parks originated in San Francisco back in 2005. And what began as a protest over a lack of greenspace and auto domination, sparked a global event that asks, “What if these cars weren’t here?’

"I think it is an ongoing discussion and creates dialogue around how we really develop and how we build our city moving forward," said Frey.

The event lasts until 7 p.m. Friday.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org