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Rittenhouse-area parking spot sees coffee instead of cars for Park(ing) Day Philadelphia

SMP Architects helped transform a parking spot on the 1600 block of Walnut St into a coffee garden, just one of over 30 parking spots in Philadelphia transformed into parks for the fourth annual Park(ing) Day. Indeed, the aroma of coffee penetrated the air around 16th and Walnut, all to generate awareness of the perceived negative impact of cars on a city.

SMP certainly demonstrated its commitment to Park(ing) Day, as they had their display percolating from 8:30 a.m. until at least 3:30 p.m., says architect Scott Ritchie. To be sure, the coffee theme was a unique one on this day. “Ground is essential to a city, so we collected coffee grounds from local shops,” said Ritchie, who was eager to explain his firm’s eclectic choice. All told, the spot contained scores of cups filled with coffee grounds from area coffee shops.

Ritchie explained that his firm pounced at the chance to participate in Park(ing) Day because of its history of sustainable design. “We want to be a part of the dialogue that makes the city greener,” says Ritchie. When asked about the primary benefits of the day, the architect mentioned discussion about pedestrian conditions, as well as the effect of autos on a city.

By far, most of the one-day parks were located in Center City, although University City, Mount Airy, Manayunk, and North Philadelphia all had participating spots. Organizations that came out for the day included city and regional planning agencies, other city government bodies, architecture and design firms, alternative transportation advocacy groups, and community development corporations.

Park(ing) Day began in San Francisco back in 2005, the brainchild of an art and design firm called Rebar. It has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon, with events in 183 cities spanning six continents. In the U.S., cities that saw parks temporarily sprout up included Memphis, New Orleans, Raleigh, and Salt Lake City.

Of course, there was no tally of how many angry drivers inched by the newly formed parks. At the 1600 Walnut St. park, Ritchie saw a few miffed motorists. However, putting it in perspective, Ritchie says it was a negligible impact for one day -- a day set aside for those not driving in downtown areas. 

Source: Scott Ritchie, SMP Architects
Writer: Andy Sharpe
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