PORTLAND — As the manager of a Fore Street store, Candy Fontaine knows that on-street parking is important to her business.

But she’s all for giving up a space along her stretch of the street for a day in the name of urban beautification.

“We make popcorn inside — we’ll bring it outside and we’ll have a party,” said Fontaine, the manager of the Life is Good store, of plans to occupy a space on Friday. “It sounds like it will be a lot of fun.”

On Friday, groups will fan out to six spots in the city to create “parklets” as part of a worldwide “Park(ing) Day,” a movement that started in San Francisco, where residents of a particularly congested and gritty section of the city decided in 2005 to claim a little open space for a brief span.

They put money in a meter, tossed out dirt and sod and set up a potted tree and a bench, creating an instant park.

Two hours later, when the meter expired, they rolled up the sod, shoveled off the dirt, removed the tree and bench and the parking spot was returned to its former, well, glory.

Susan Schindler, an associate professor at the University of Maine School of Law, brought the idea east with her when she moved from San Francisco to Portland a couple of years ago.

This summer, she set up a page on Facebook, invited interested would-be urban planners to sign up and in short order, Portland was one of dozens of cities involved with Park(ing) Day 2012. Last year, nearly 1,000 parklets were built in 162 cities in 35 countries around the world.

“A lot of it is about creativity,” Schindler said of the effort, but the largely unspoken purpose of the movement is to get people to think about how much urban space is given over to moving and storing cars.

“We have all this space that could be activated by people,” she said. “Let’s start the conversation about that.”

The Fore Street space will be occupied by Christian MilNeil, who will use it to highlight a lack of housing in the city along with the central idea of getting people to contemplate how much city space is devoted to parking and streets.

MilNeil plans to build a framed efficiency apartment in his space, with some furniture and house plants.

MilNeil said city figures show there are about 8,000 city-owned parking spaces on the Portland peninsula which he figures works out to about 25 acres of land. That could be used for parks, housing or offices, he said.

“It’s a lot of real estate, and very valuable real estate,” MilNeil said.

Schindler said the movement is decentralized and none of the organizers are interested in dictating how to use the parking spaces.

Her Facebook event page simply set out the idea of Park(ing) Day and invited people to sign up to attend the event. She said the small group of organizers debated whether to seek city approval or engage in “guerilla urbanism” by having people simply go out, claim a space and make a park.

“There’s a lot of power behind guerilla urbanism, but in some ways, there’s more power behind cities working with residents to enhance the urban environment for everybody,” she said.

The city issued permits at $15 each — the value of a day’s lost parking revenue — per space, said Nicole Clegg, Portland’s spokeswoman.

Clegg said the city frequently allows people to reserve a space for a day — for a moving van, for instance. Portland had no problem approving the parklet idea, she said, as long as the spaces are cleared out and cleaned up at the end of the day.

Schindler said she expects the parking spaces to be put to a wide variety of uses Friday.

She said many in the movement discourage the original approach, because spreading dirt and sod for a single day’s use is not environmentally sound.

Among the plans expected in Portland, she said, are MilNeil’s apartment; a “lounge” with seats, books and a typewriter; and a basic community gathering spot.

Mark Giroux of Windham, who was sitting in a car waiting for a friend on Fore Street Wednesday afternoon, said he’s all for the idea.

“Portland is a diverse city and there has been all kinds of change, most of it for the better,” he said.

If he’s looking for a spot Friday and it’s occupied by an apartment, “I can go find a spot and walk where I’m going,” Giroux said.

Fontaine said the unusual aspect of the event will outweigh the loss of a parking space.

“Most people, when they come to Portland, don’t expect to find parking anyway,” she said.

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