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Downtown ‘pop-up park’ proves to be wildly successful attracting families

Officials hope to move park once development begins downtown

Published in the June 10-23, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

Photo by Marty Cheek Children play with oversized foam blocks in the city’s new “pop-up park” located on the former parking lot at the corner of Third and Monterey streets in downtown Morgan Hill.

Photo by Marty Cheek
Children play with oversized foam blocks in the city’s new “pop-up park” located on the former parking lot at the corner of Third and Monterey streets in downtown Morgan Hill.

As part of its placemaking strategy, the city opened the vacant liquor store parking lot at the southeast corner of Third and Monterey streets with a temporary “pop-up park” intended to create a family gathering space and showcase many of the mini-grant art projects. Various elements of this temporary park were donated or will be reused in future parks and plazas in the downtown.

“It has been well embraced by the community and we can see the opportunities of creating family gathering areas in the downtown,” said Edith Ramirez, the city’s principal planner for economic development who led in the creation of the park.

The park, dedicated May 22, is set on bright green AstroTurf surrounded by a low wall that children and adults can make drawings or leave messages in chalk. It includes foam construction toys for children to play as well as several chairs and artistic benches artistically made of former butane tanks. A large mural on the wall of the liquor store building shows the vibrant bicycle spirit of Morgan Hill. A larger-than-life ceramic sculpture of grapes and a bottle of vino on the wall reveals the wine-making heritage of the South Valley. For fun photo ops, the park contains a huge Adirondack chair that make people posing on it seem tiny. A bike hub provides a hydration station and fix-it station.

“The intention for the pop-up park is that it’s suppose to activate the downtown, especially as we gear up for the construction that’s about to take place,” Ramirez said. “It is a way to balance the construction impacts by offering new places for the community to come and gather and continue to support the downtown businesses. We are expecting to have the park over the summer and when the developer is ready to access the park, our hope is that we can find another home for the park.”

Plans are in the works for at least two new downtown parks, one in a woody lot across the creek behind Ladera Grill and the other just along Depot Street south of Jonty’s Vietnamese Eatery.
The pop-up park is considered a bridge for the two new parks that will come to the downtown, Ramirez said.

“We need to provide gathering places, places where people can stroll to, and places that are welcoming to families and welcoming of children,” she said.

John McKay, a member of the city’s Planning Commission, helped in the development of the pop-up park and said he was impressed by how the project turned out. The park was done on a “shoe-string” budget with much of the labor and materials donated by local businesses and individuals, he said.

“I think it’s wildly successful,” he said. “It’s really changed the character and complexion of downtown. These pop-up parks can really have an impact on a place like downtown.”

Sponsors of the pop-up park include San Martin artist Lina Velasquez, artists Mesngr & Empire 7 Studio, the American Institute of Mathematics, BookSmart, Concept Cyclery, George Chiala Farms, John McKay, Johnson Garden Center, Passerelle Investment Company, Smith Commercial, Specialized Bicycle Components, and Tencate Composites.