Eat, Play, Bike, Placemaking at Villager on South Park St

Thursday, June 13, 2013 - 6:14am

MADISON, WI- What do you get when you add a parking space dedicated to a life-size game of Chutes and Ladders …to table cloths blowing on a clothesline strung between two lamp posts…to a 17-year old rock star singing his own tunes from a low-slung stage, dumpling for sale and kids playing tag on b-cycles? If you guessed a parking lot, you're right! People are taking back the parking lot at Villager Mall (2300 South Park St.) every Thursday in June from 6-9pm for Eat(ing), Play(ing) & Bike(ing), dubbed Eat, Play, Bike Days by the subversive entities instigating the insurrection (South Madison Promise Zone (SMPZ), Sustain Dane, Community Development Authority, Planet Bike, Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative and South Metropolitan Planning Council). On June 6, 13, 20, and 27 the parking lot will be closed to vehicles and open for residents to transform the parking lot into a community carnival that allows residents to share their culture, food, and have fun getting to know their neighbors.

Participants will be able to enjoy ethnic music, food, and performers such as Blackstar Drumline, Cappoeira Angola, the Latino band Sonido Suaves, RePlay HASA Hmong break-dancers. Partners will be demonstrating how to make hula-hoops and host a jump rope contest. Kids can learn to ride a bike, line dance, and get their face painted. There will also be a break dance and a placemaking competition.

Jon Sandbrook, a resident of Madison, turned his parking space into grassy space, complete with beach towels and an umbrella. Lying on the towels looking up, a sign on the underside of the umbrella invites people to confess a secret, which prompted many giggles from the various attendees.

Placemaking is a community-centered approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place. The vision can evolve quickly into an implementation strategy, beginning with small-scale, do-able improvements that can immediately bring benefits to public spaces and the people who use them.

Peng Her, Executive Director of SMPZ states, "Placemaking allows residents to take a boring parking lot and turn it into a community space that allows the neighborhood to see it as something other than a parking lot. In addition, it allows for residents in S. Madison to express their culture and share their skills with their neighbor."

Eat Play Bike Placemaking is due in part to the many partnerships formed. Kristen Joiner, Executive Director of Sustain Dane says, "I loved seeing the kids turn the parking lot into a bike derby. S. Park Street, which is literally a state highway, feels like it was designed around cars. The idea that we can take back a parking lot for people and fun feels revolutionary." Other community partners include the Goodman Library, Madison Gas and Electric, Mothers in the Neighborhood, UW Space Place, UW WE-Conserve, and the Urban League of Greater Madison.

Funding made possible by: Capital Area Regional Planning Commission through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and through the City of Madison Neighborhood Grant.


  • Peng Her608-729-1229