Can a parking garage do more for a community than simply provide parking spaces? The Hipp Deck, a temporary use intervention undertaken in downtown Cleveland, responded to that question with a resounding 'Yes!' An ordinary parking garage was temporarily transformed into a lively public outdoor performance venue, complete with friendly elevator operators, lawn seating, local food concession stands and a fountain pond growing lettuce.
The project took place on Saturday, October 8, 2011, as part of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative's year-long project,Cleveland Stories: True Until Proven Otherwise. Cleveland Stories is about urban narratives and the ways that stories can help shape the physical fabric of cities. The Hipp Deck told the story of the past life of the parking deck site, when it was the location of the Hippodrome Theater, a nationally renowned 4,000 seat performance venue. The Hipp, as it was known, hosted legendary acts such as Sarah Bernhardt, Al Jolson, and Will Rogers, until it was demolished in 1981. During initial conversations regarding event plans, the parking garage's facilities manager fondly recalled heading down to the Hippodrome Theater in the late 1960s to see Ike and Tina Turner perform.
The event drew a diverse crowd and showcased an eclectic mix of live music, including opera, electronic and indie rock performances. A fifty-foot long colorful inflatable named "Make it Look Rich," was installed on the deck by the Cleveland Institute of Art's Jimmy Kuehnle, who also wore an inflatable suit during the event as he playfully interacted with the crowd. The event environment was rounded out with original theater seats from the Hippodrome, valet bike parking and, of course, velvet ropes, to reinforce the theater experience.
Parking infrastructure takes up a significant amount of space in many cities and parking spots often sit vacant outside of peak periods of demand. Alternative programming in off-peak hours can maximize the financial and cultural returns on parking facilities and enliven an otherwise underutilized resource.
The Hipp Deck embodied a compelling vision for Cleveland’s parking infrastructure; a hybrid landscape, which recognizes the reality of parking demands, but also engages the desires of residents. Cars avoid the uncovered top level of parking decks, but people love the view! Sloped decks also work great for theater seating. We hope this exciting people-centered vision for the future of our ever-present parking infrastructure will help inspire the collective acts of our fellow artists, activists and designers.