Portable pocket park for city

02:23, Jan 16 2014
portable pocket park
CONCEPT: Concept: How architect Rachel Dodd sees the "pocket park" developing on Bridge St.

An architect and a food cart owner are working together to create a portable park in Nelson and want to create a lunchtime hub in the city.

The park is starting off in a vacant site on Bridge St and aims to offer a positive solution for empty spaces around the city.

Chef Michael McMeeken and Rachel Dodd of Arthouse Architecture are working together on the project.

portable pocket park
TEAM EFFORT: Chef Michael McMeeken and architect Rachel Dodd who are working together to create a portable pocket park to use on vacant sites in Nelson.

Rachel says they both thought a lunch time park, or food hub, would be perfect for the vacant spot left where the Realty Chambers building was demolished last year.

"We approached [landlord] Brian Jones independently and it was Brian who put us both together. We both had a really similar vision of what we wanted."

Brian has given permission for a temporary pocket park on the site with the understanding it will be dismantled when he wants to re-develop it.


They currently have use of the site confirmed until at least April. The idea is that the park can be moved to another site.

"Brian has been really generous to hand over this site for what ever period of time that's going to be."

Rachel says she really hopes empty spaces in Nelson will get used.

"I think that is important for Nelson as a whole that there's a vibrant centre."

Her idea was to create a place where people could buy lunch or bring their lunch and have somewhere nice to relax.

"We have all those sunshine hours, but Nelson is lacking in somewhere nice outside to sit."

Michael was inspired by a visit to Portland, Oregon where carts from around the world sell food side by side in vacant sites.

He says the vacant site in Nelson immediately came to mind and when he arrived back he started making inquiries.

"And one door opened and another door opened and another door opened and then the whole thing just organically happened." He opened his food cart Streat Kitchen on the site before Christmas and has since been joined by a food cart selling Filipino food.

They would ideally like half a dozen food cart operators to set up and foster the idea of the park as a lunch time destination.

Rachel is a trustee of the City of Nelson Civic Trust and approached the trust for help.

The trust has given the project a small grant to get started. This has enabled them to buy crushed mussel shells to lay on the ground.

Rachel says the next step will be to look for sponsorship from businesses; help is needed to maintain and create the park.

She would like to get bench tables and seating in the park, with planters at the end of the furniture to provide greenery and shade. She also envisions an open space in the centre of the park to provide a safe open space for children to roam.

The project is looking for donations of timber for the plant boxes and furniture, paint, soil and trees. It is also looking for people to donate their time and expertise towards the project.

Rachel says many pocket parks are the result of community groups or businesses reclaiming otherwise forgotten spaces. She believes there is real scope for the community to get involved in the idea, and says Christchurch has great examples of creative ways to use vacant sites.

"Christchurch is leading the way in putting something positive back into the city."

More buildings are likely to come down in Nelson as a result of earthquake strengthening standards for buildings." The main thing is that we want it to be a inclusive positive space for everyone."