City to encourage temporary new use of parking lot

Published 8:47 pm Thursday, September 20, 2018

If you drive by the old downtown water tower Friday afternoon, keep your eyes peeled for hammocks.

They will be one component of the city’s own PARK(ing) Day, celebrated nationwide and globally each Sept. 21. In other cities, parallel parking spaces have been repurposed as a public beach, a chicken coop and an interactive sculpture. In Albert Lea, the event encourages people to reimagine, if just for an afternoon, half of the parking lot below the water tower.

According to a map created by the city, there are over 30 parking lots in downtown Albert Lea.

“Is that the best use of public space?” Gabrielatos said. He also said there are opportunities in the city to consider how lakefront space is used.

From 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, the parking lot will behave as a park. In addition to hammocks strung up under the water tower, Parks and Recreation Program Supervisor Jenny Davis said there will be a bouncy obstacle course, sidewalk chalk, mini golf sets, pumpkin decorating, yard games, face painting, music and snacks.

There will also be a banner Davis said community members can write ideas on for what the lot could be in the future.

Director of Public Works Steve Jahnke said the city has hired a consultant to conduct a study as to whether the future water tower — which, within five years, will replace the one currently occupying the space downtown — should return to the same space or be moved elsewhere. Results will be discussed by the end of this year.

“We could have the same conversation about how to use parking space in different ways in other parking lots,” Gabrielatos said. “This is just … it’s a nice place to be, next to a lake on a Friday afternoon.”

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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