Old Town resident Meg Ziemann looks at the Bug B&B with Karin Reber of Campbell & Ferrara.
Photo by Mike Salmon.
Alexandria After parking her bike with a two-passenger child trailer linked to the back,
Meg Ziemann and son Hugo walked through the “parklet,” set up by Campbell & Ferrara, one of seven parklets set up on Friday, Sept. 15, dubbed International Parking Day. The parklets are demonstrating other uses for parking spots, and this one had shrubbery, paving stones and a structure called a “Bug B&B, A Beneficial Hideout” for bugs. The Ziemann family lives in Old Town and practices a car-free lifestyle, using the bike with trailer as much as possible. “We showed up for a wilderness walk,” she said, walking through the shrubbery that Campbell & Ferrara reps Laura Shawb, and Karin Reber set up. “This shows the potential for our streetscape,” she said.
The block around the City Hall was dotted with such spots, each demonstrating
a different use for the parking spots with a new concept of PARK(ing) Day, which is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces — temporary public places.
The parklets were sponsored by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Planning and Zoning, Transportation and Environmental Services, Recreation and Parks, the Office of Housing, as well as Alexandria development firms Michael Baker International, Rhodeside & Harwell, and Campbell & Ferrara.
Katye North, the principal planner at Alexandria Transportation, looked at PARK(ing) Day as a chance to “rethink public space use on something other than a car,” she said. The city recently got a $200,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation to work on different parking technologies, North said. One plan is to get cars into the public lots easier. With the grant, the object is to “make it more efficient to implement more parking technologies,” North said.
Parking in Old Town has seen changes through the years. In 2014, the City of Alexandria did a study “to evaluate existing parking standards for development projects and establish updated parking standards for new development projects,” according to city information. Since then, non-auto travel has seen a steady increase in the city in recent years, and the city is looking at the standard they set for multi-family residential areas and retail and offices. They are also looking at the 72-hour on-street parking ordinance and parking permits for new developments. There is an Old Town Area Parking Study Work Group established as well. At the recent meeting, the task force reviewed recommendations for updated standards for office, hotel, retail, and restaurant uses, all of which haven’t been updated since the 1960s, North said in an email.
On PARK(ing) Day, the message was environmental sustainability and “trying to get less vehicles in the city so parking is less of a problem,” said Ellen Eggerton of the city’s transportation and environmental services. Eggerton manned one of the city’s parklets on Cameron Street. “There’s a big push to reduce the single occupancy cars,” she said.
Taking up parking spots at lunchtime on a sunny Friday on the streets around City Hall did require some planning beforehand though. City officials met with area businesses and restaurants in the days leading up to PARK(ing) Day. North looked around from the transportation parklet on Cameron Street. “There’s still available spots,” she said.