Landscape architect J.R. Kramer tried to celebrate PARK(ing) Day on Friday, a worldwide event in which artists, designers and others transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks.
The only problem is, he chose King Street.
As Charleston parking officers looked on, Kramer packed up his furniture, his artificial grass and the potted cacti that he had arranged with care on a parking place in front of 535 King St.
Kramer and his associate Jesse Solomon were able to order pizza for lunch and attract attention from passersby — to a point.
The city officers eventually instructed the pair that they would have to vacate the space well before the two hours had elapsed on the parking meter that Kramer had filled with coins.
Kramer complied before he could be given a fine — or even a parking ticket.
“No hard feelings,” he told an onlooking official, who might have been responding to a complaint.
A woman who works nearby but declined to give her name thought Kramer’s display was weird and inappropriate. “We’ve never seen anything like that,” she said. “I would have been furious if it was in front of our store.”
Sammy Kirshtein of Dixie Furniture said he was fine with having the “park” spring up outside his store. “It didn’t bother me at all. It was an air of excitement.”
Tim Keane, Charleston’s director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, said the city’s parking enforcement officers were just doing their job.
“Parking spaces on the street are for cars,” he said. “On a daily basis, there are a lot of cars coming and going. There’s a lot of business going on. The merchants have expectations of their business and the activities of the street.”
Last year, PARK(ing) Day created 975 “parks” in 162 cities in 35 countries on six continents, according to the website parkingday.org.
Kramer’s move was similar to what developer Vince Graham did in 2006, when he commandeered a Lower King Street parking space and served his friends pizza and nonalcoholic beer.
Graham was cited and given a court date, though the city later dropped its charge of obstructing public ways.
At the time, Graham said he thought of planning a similar “dine-in” to celebrate, but instead decided to meet with Mayor Joe Riley to discuss his larger point that city streets should be geared more toward pedestrians and less toward cars.
Keane said the city is interested in creative uses of its public realm.
He noted thay the city has closed off much of King Street to vehicles one Sunday afternoon a month, and it recently gave up a vehicle parking space at King and John streets to install bike racks there instead.
In 2008, the city co-sponsored a PARK(ing) Day event with The Trust for Public Land, temporarily occupying parking spaces within the confines of a Market area parking lot.
Kramer said he and Solomon were disappointed that they were not allowed to stay for the full two hours Friday, but they still had fun.
“We got to meet some really nice folks and saw a lot of smiles as people drove by,” he said. “Yes, I will do it again next year.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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