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Evelyn Andrews Posted by on September 5, 2017.

Lenox Square parking spaces become mini-parks Sept. 15

Businesses and nonprofits will take over a Lenox Square mall parking lot Sept. 15 to install their interpretations of a mini-park in the second annual “PARK(ing) Day” event.

Livable Buckhead is organizing the local version of “PARK(ing) Day,” which takes place nationwide. Participants will transform 36 parking spaces between Peachtree Road and the mall’s front entrance into their interpretation of a park. All the spots have been claimed, but the event is open to the public.

Valerie McKibben of the city of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability demonstrates a stationary bicycle used to power a smoothie-making machine at the office’s mini-park at Lenox Square Mall for the 2016 PARK(ing) Day. (Phil Mosier)

“The event has people reimagine the urban landscape. We want to push people out of cars and recognize parks are an important part of the community,” said Anna Sharp, Livable Buckhead’s client accounts manager for transportation demand management. Participants will include local businesses, corporations, nonprofits and neighborhood associations.

PARK(ing) Day began in San Francisco in 2005, when a local design firm rented a metered parking spot and created a mini-park with sod, a park bench and a tree. Since then, the event has spread to other cities around the U.S. The idea behind the event is make the area less car-oriented, at least temporarily, and get people thinking about parks in an urban environment.

“Although the project is temporary, we hope PARK(ing) Day inspires you to participate in the civic processes that permanently alter the urban landscape,” the nationwide event’s website says.

Participants will begin setting up their mini-parks at 7 a.m. and disassemble them by 4 p.m. Food trucks will be on site from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. so people can lunch as they view the installations.

The local event has been almost doubled in size from last year, when about 20 spaces were allotted for the event, said Sharp. The spaces are donated by Simon Property Group, which owns the mall, and is coordinated by the mall’s area manager Robin Suggs, who serves on the Livable Buckhead board.

This will be the fifth year Livable Buckhead has hosted the local event, and its second year hosting the event at Lenox Square, Sharp said.

“We want to help people realize these public spaces are wonderful because you can interact with community there and host activities, even in small parks or spaces,” said Sharp, citing the example of yoga classes held in Charlie Loudermilk Park, a small park wedged between Roswell and Peachtree roads and Sardis Way. “We want to get people using public spaces as community gathering spaces,” Sharp said.

Participants pay a fee to enter. Money not spent on the event’s operating costs goes toward the organization’s projects, including PATH400, Sharp said. The goats used to clear land for PATH400 also will make an appearance at the event, she said.

“Livable Buckhead will use PARK(ing) Day to help call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to provide a fun opportunity for positive community interaction in an unlikely place: the Lenox Square parking lot!” the organization said about the event on its website.

Several local nonprofits are taking part, including the Atlanta History Center and the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, which says it will turn its spot into a “mini” preserve.

One of the most creative and memorable installations last year was done by the city’s Office of Sustainability, Sharp said. The department, she said, set up a stationary bicycle used to power a smoothie-making machine.

In Brookhaven, the organization We Love BuHi is holding a similar PARK(ing) Day event Sept. 15-17 at Northeast Plaza, a shopping center on Buford Highway at Briarcliff Road.

“Our aim is to reimagine how this strip mall corridor of thriving immigrant businesses can be more people-friendly and more human-scaled and celebrate the diverse, multicultural heart of Atlanta that is Buford Highway,” We Love BuHi said in a social media post about the event.