International PARK(ing) Day 2012: Mini golfing on Milwaukee Avenue - Metropolitan Planning Council

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International PARK(ing) Day 2012: Mini golfing on Milwaukee Avenue

Bobby Zylstra

Milwaukee Avenue's mini-golf hole #2, featuring a bike-powered wind mill

Even golf courses have to pay the meter.

What happens when you take away parking and replace it with a mini golf course? We found out last Friday, Sept. 21, at the Milwaukee Avenue Mini-Golf Day. The rain and cold temperatures didn’t deter community members, artists and activists as they transformed metered parking spots into temporary public parks – all in the form of a mini-golf course. It turns out that you can rent the space for the day as part of International PARK(ing) Day – as long as you remember to pay the meter every two hours.


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International PARK(ing) Day started in 2005 when Rebar, an art and design studio in San Francisco, converted a metered parking spot into a temporary public park. Now, PARK(ing) Day is celebrated internationally, helping to highlight the need for more urban open space, spark conversations about how public spaces are created and allocated, and improve the quality of the places we use every day.

Just a few of the holes setup along Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square/Avondale.

Katherine Darnstadt, of Latent Design, wanted to draw attention to the area along Milwaukee Avenue between Kimball and Central Park that suffers from high vacancy rates in first-floor retail units. Working with the local community and 35th Ward Ald. Rey Colon, Darnstadt capitalized on PARK(ing) Day to help draw attention to a new zoning change that allows for artists to live and work in storefronts and to highlight the potential of the new space to the community and building owners. The idea is not only to reduce the number of street-level vacancies, but to “create a vibrant arts corridor over time in an area that is experiencing serial vacancy,” according to Darnstadt.

With funding for materials from the Awesome Foundation and an Astroturf donation from Christy Webber Landscapes, local artists and businesses designed holes that would be located in front of a specific vacant storefront where the zoning has changed. Due to the rainy weather and street construction, some of this plan had to be modified, but spirits were high and the mood was cheerful as pedestrians stopped to take their best shot at selected holes.

Mini golf hole #2: bike-powered wind mill.

Bobby Zylstra

My personal favorite was a bike-powered wind mill designed by Bobby Zylstra of Southside Hackers, a workspace for local artists and craftsmen. While one person rides the bike, which rotates the mill, the golfer must knock the ball through a slot to advance toward the hole. How clever is that?!?  

Bronzeville People Spot Ribbon cutting ceremony.

Imagine if these mini parks were permanent. People Spots have been popping up around Chicago as a part of the Chicago Dept. of Transportation’s Make Way for People Initiative. People spots are similar to PARK(ing) Day in that they are set up in parking lanes adjacent to sidewalks. They provide seasonal seating for relaxing and dining to enhance the sense of place on the street. There are four pilots around the City, including one in Bronzeville, where benches and vegetation provide an inviting space for pedestrians to relax.

The Milwaukee Avenue Mini-Golf Day certainly activated an otherwise predominantly vacant segment of Milwaukee Avenue, transforming the streetscape into an area where people paused along their journey to enjoy a public space. This year, it was just for a day. Maybe next year Milwaukee Avenue will be a sea of Frisbee golf, hackey sacks and bocce courts. Dare to dream.  

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