Giving Back to Asheville – MHAworks Participates in Park(ing) Day

Oct 08 2020

Each year the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Asheville Chapter hosts an internationally recognized community event called Park(ing) Day on the third Friday of September. Originated in San Francisco in 2005, the purpose of this event is to improve the public realm by reclaiming parking spots generated by the community it serves. The City of Asheville allows participants to take over street-side parking spots and transform them into miniature nature parks, complete with grass, trees, benches, etc.

Due to the pandemic’s toll on local businesses in Asheville, the City along with the AIA Asheville Chapter was determined to make this year’s Park(ing) Day go beyond providing a single day public outdoor space.

“We wanted to help the local businesses stay in business and the best way to do that was to provide them an outdoor space,” said Tanya De Leon, MHAworks Project Architect and AIA Asheville Chapter Director of Outreach.

AIA Asheville and the City teamed up provide businesses around South Market Street in downtown with a community parklet that all store owners could share. Because of the City’s visitor restrictions for local businesses, the parklet provided extra space for outdoor dining and shopping. Other organizations like LEAF Global Arts, a nonprofit that provides music, art, and cultural awareness education to youth and the community at large, will utilize the space by providing outdoor art and hip-hop dance classes.

The City collected permit applications from interested businesses and paired them with local architect/builder teams. From there, the design teams provided pro-bono services to the business with the help of $500 received from AIA North Carolina Activate Grant, monies granted for the purpose of giving back to the community.

For this event, MHAworks designed a parklet that not only provided beauty and function, but also addressed ADA accessibility and storm water mitigation. MHAworks partnered with Beverly-Grant, a general contractor in Asheville, who brought the design to life through their construction services.

The team’s primary client was LEAF Global Arts, who will be adding their own personal touches to the parklet.

While the parklets are only temporary, local businesses have already seen a direct impact. Builders FirstSource, a building materials store, generously donated $4000 worth of lumber and supplies, which allowed MHAworks to donate the $500 received from the AIA Grant to LEAF Global Arts.