‘Love Transfer Station’ pop-up park hauled away in Santa Fe

February 21, 2019

Breaking up is hard to do — even if it involves a dumpster.

A rusty waste container that had been transformed into a pop-up park was hauled away from its highly visible location off Llano Street and dumped Tuesday in the back of the city’s storage yard in the Siler Road complex.

District 4 City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, who pushed for the parklet’s removal from her district following news reports that it was showing signs of neglect, said she was “elated” that the so-called parklet — dubbed the Love Transfer Station — was “finally gone from Llano Street.”

“The Love Transfer Station, let me just say, I’m glad love don’t live there any more,” she quipped. “I suppose the city yard is where broken hearts go to die.”

The red-and-white parklet with heart-shaped features was unveiled with much fanfare in November 2014.

MIX Santa Fe, a business networking initiative, received a $50,000 grant from the PNM Foundation to produce the parklet and two others. Unlike the two other parklets, though, the Love Transfer Station included plantings that were supposed to include sand lovegrass, virgin’s bower climbing vine and Eversweet strawberries, making it more difficult to maintain.

Over time, the Love Transfer Station fell into disrepair. In December, the parklet was littered with weeds and trash. The paint on the benches was chipping off, and rust was starting to reappear on the floor. The parklet was also getting tagged by graffiti vandals. Its condition prompted Vigil Coppler to call for its removal.

“I worked with the property owner, who has been marvelous at agreeing that it was time for it to go,” she said.

The property owner, Forrest R. Thomas of Thomas Properties, LLC, said the original plan was for the parklet to be placed at the Llano Street location for six months to a year.

“It kind of grew into several years,” he said. “Then also it had gotten, obviously, some negative press, so that’s why we requested that it go ahead and be removed.”

Thomas said he had not particularly thought about asking for its removal beforehand, though he did visit the property at one point and noticed that “it was starting to look pretty much like it had been neglected.”

Vigil Coppler, who is friends with Thomas, said she called him to express her displeasure with the parklet. She previously called it “a piece of junk” and “urban blight.”

“He said he would take the matter into his own hands,” she said.

Kate Noble, a MIX Santa Fe co-founder who used to work for the city, agreed the parklet stayed at the Llano Street location longer than planned. She said MIX Santa Fe helped facilitate its removal at Thomas’ request.

“I hope the city can continue to see it as it was always intended, which is a tool for creative place making because that was what it was born as,” said Noble, also a member of the Santa Fe school board.

Designed and built by local sculptor Don Kennell and landscape architect Christie Green of the landscape design firm Radicle, with help from three apprentices from YouthWorks, the parklet has seating inside surrounded by terraced planting beds that were supposed to be “overflowing with plants and flowers” in spring.

The plants and flowers, which were to be irrigated by a heart-shaped water tank, had some kind of connection to love, either through color or species names. But maintenance and upkeep of the plantings and the parklet itself fell by the wayside.

“It needed some love, but it is something that can be used in thinking about place making and thinking about doing things differently,” Noble said. “I hope that rather than throwing stones, that we can be productive about how we make a better, more walkable city, which was the point of the Love Transfer Station to begin with. Not to mention, the idea was, it’s about showing your city some love.”

Noble said the business networking organization spruced up the parklet this winter. State Rep. Andrea Romero, who used to be MIX Santa Fe’s executive director, posted pictures of herself and another woman decorating the parklet with faux flowers and garland.

Noble said MIX Santa Fe plans to repaint the old dumpster when it gets warmer.

“We hope to see it in action again,” she said. “It’s had a very good run in its initial location. We hope it will be reborn in another location.”

The fate of the Love Transfer Station is unknown. But Vigil Coppler said it may perish alone.

“I’m told it’s going to stay there until it rusts to death,” she said, “or it finds a new suitor that gives it love.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.