Mill Avenue is getting yet another facelift - for one day, anyway.
On Friday, landscape architect students from Arizona State University will create miniature parks in the metered parking spaces that line downtown Tempe's main drag.
It's part of an annual worldwide event called "PARK(ing) Day," in which artists, activists and citizens temporarily transform parking stalls into public parks, art galleries, demonstration gardens and free health clinics, among other things. The idea is to get people to rethink the way we use public space and how much of it we devote to our cars.
Passersby are encouraged to stop in and enjoy the miniscule spaces on Mill, which could be configured as a traditional park space with a tree and grass or set up like an outdoor living room.
"Come in, hang out, have a phone call, eat your lunch, play a game - anything. It's your space," says Valerie Johnson, a grad student who will be creating a park for the event.
She says the students will pay the meters for the time they spend in the parking stalls.
"The standard is that you pay for your spot, and you behave yourself," says Johnson.
And if they meet with unsympathetic meter maids?
"I've never heard of that happening, in all the places all over the world where PARK(ing) Day has taken place over the years. Last year, when this was done in downtown Phoenix, the meter readers would come around, and it would actually make them smile. If anything, they enjoyed it; it was something different and refreshing in their day," she says.
This year marks the first time PARK(ing) Day is celebrated in Tempe. It will also be taking place in Phoenix and Tucson.
The project was started in 2005 by San Francisco design studio Rebar. Last year's event included more than 700 installations on four continents. This year, people in South Africa, Poland, Norway, New Zealand and South Korea will participate for the first time.
For more information or to see a map of participating cities, go to http://my.parkingday.org.
If You Go
What: Metered parking spaces are transformed into miniature parks for PARK(ing) Day
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday
Where: along Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe