parking day toronto

Toronto parking space is being transformed into a park

Toronto is massive, and we rarely stop to think about how much space is actually taken up by parking spots across the city. 

But a few instructors, teaching assistants and students from the University of Toronto are doing something to change that. 

By participating in Park(ing) Day — a global event held on the third Friday of September every year since 2005 — Willow Cabral, Kelly Gregg and Sneha Mandhan are challenging Toronto residents to rethink the meaning of public spaces. 

Park(ing) Day was started by John Bela in San Francisco almost 15 years ago. He and his friends turned a parking space on a drab street into a lively public space, and passersby instantly started utilizing it. 

"We created an opportunity for social interaction that wasn’t there before," he told Citylab in 2017

When U of T instructor Kelly Gregg challenged her Urban Planning students to come with a proposal for a Park(ing) Day implementation, she said one student in particular showed interest in pursuing it for real. 

"There hasn’t been much of a Park(ing) Day presence in Toronto," said Willow Cabral, the second-year student who took on the project. 

Together with teaching assistant Sneha Mandhan​​​​​​​, Cabral and Gregg decided to put this plan into action. 

On September 20 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., using astroturf, milk crates, seating and plants, they'll turn a parking spot in front of U of T's Conservatory of Music into a public space for anyone and everyone to enjoy. 

"The idea behind it is to remind people that the street is a public space," Gregg said. 

The point is to "cater toward people more than cars," Cabral added. 

While the group said they're not planning to apply for a permit from the city, they intend to pay the parking meter for the entirety of the day in hopes that'll be enough. 

"We are using that as our claim to the public space by paying and we won’t be going outside the confines of the space," Gregg said, adding that there's  "a strong guerrilla-type ethos to the project."

She said they're a little nervous about the implementation of the project, but they have enough resources available if they have to talk to the city.

"Our first and foremost thing is to raise awareness so that more of these can pop up in the next few years,"Mandhan​​​​​​​ said. "Not only about the day itself but also about what it means for the city. We also just want people to come out and have a good time."

Lead photo by

Tom Hilton


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