Milan converts 250,000 square feet of parking to public space

There’s no way Milan could know what was coming, but in the years leading up to the pandemic, the city was preparing as if it saw the future.

In 2018, the city began a massive reinvestment of its public space, focusing specifically on land that was devoted to car parking in neighborhoods that had little space. with simple intervention they were places Converted to new public plaza, As the pandemic set in – Milan was one of the first epicenters of the outbreak in Europe – these outdoor spaces became essential lockdown escapes.

[Photo: courtesy Janette Sadik-Khan]

Now, as the pandemic evolves from emergency to low-level crisis, Milan’s Present Piazza program is underway, and is setting an example for the ways the city can carve new public spaces from land already controlled. can.

Launched as part of Mayor Giuseppe Sala’s plan to build a more resilient and livable city by 2030, the piazza construction effort is led by Bloomberg Associates, the consulting arm of Bloomberg Philanthropy. The program is being implemented under the guidance of Janet Sadiq-Khan, who served as New York City’s Transportation Commissioner during Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral administration and who famously pioneered the transformation of the city’s street spaces into car-free public squares. did. Milan’s program imitates and builds on what happened in New York.

The program began in 2018 with three Piazza conversions, taking small paved areas used for street parking in underserved neighborhoods and applying paint to benches, planters and asphalt. Closing them to cars, the spaces turned into parks almost overnight.

08 90763875 Milan Piazzas
[Photo: courtesy Janette Sadik-Khan]

“It didn’t take years or millions of euros,” says Sadiq-Khan. “We worked really fast with paintbrushes and benches to turn those parking spaces into people’s places.”

In 2019, 13 more piazzas were completed. More than a dozen were completed in 2020, even in the midst of the pandemic, and more have been built since then. “It’s been 38 piazzas in four years,” says Sadiq-Khan. “It’s an incredible amount of infrastructure, almost a quarter-million square feet of space. And Milan has been able to keep up the pace.”

She says more than 42 miles of roads have also been converted from car traffic to cycle and pedestrian lanes, and the city plans to announce its next phase of the Piazza program, which will include more locations across the city. are being converted. “Community participation is an important part of this,” says Sadiq-Khan. “Not everyone is going to get on board. Not everyone will agree that’s even a problem.”

11 90763875 Milan Piazzas
[Photo: courtesy Janette Sadik-Khan]

The program had some detractors, including local businesses, who were concerned that removing street parking would hurt their bottom line. The mayor of Milan faced anti-Piazza challenge in his campaign for re-election last time, but he was finally successful, Some businesses next to these new parks have embraced them by offering paddles and balls that people can borrow to use with the many ping-pong tables added to these plazas. “You are starting to see potential politics as an important part of the change happening in cities,” says Sadiq-Khan.

12 90763875 Milan Piazzas
[Photo: courtesy Janette Sadik-Khan]

The pandemic has played a role in these efforts, underscoring the importance of public spaces and garnering greater public support during the initial planning and development process. Sadiq-Khan says neighborhood groups are now lobbying for their piazza projects.

After being unable to personally oversee the expansion of the program during the peak of the pandemic, Sadiq-Khan visited the city again in May. “It was almost like a different city from 2019,” she says.

“Today half of Milan’s people live within walking distance of a public space that was not there four years ago,” says Sadiq-Khan. “It didn’t just happen. It was conceived and planned and actually executed in the blink of an eye for a city using materials that every city has got and along the streets that are already Huh. “

She says any forward-thinking city can follow this model, and Bloomberg Associates has put out similar paint-based public plaza interventions in cities across the US “showing matching that when you’re on your streets.” When investing, you are investing in your people,” says Sadiq-Khan. “Even if you’re building public spaces out of road asphalt, great spaces in great cities are the product of urban needs and urban intervention.”

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