|Park(ing) Day example from StreetsBlog|
|Philly Parklet in Chinatown (from MOTU)|
|From Data Driven Detroit|
Parking can be important, especially for retail, so maybe a prudent approach, in places that aren't fully built out, would be to focus Park(ing) day activity, not just on on-street spaces, but strategically problematic surface parking lots.
Find the lot that you really think should be a building, rent the corner or edge spaces for the day, and set up a lemonade stand (even if you give it away for free in order to avoid the ire of the relevant city department) or something as a means of simulating the commerce that should be taking place there and helping others visualize it.
In Portland (Oregon, this time, though it pains me to admit), the foodcart vendors that we all know and love are begining to more permanently occupy edge spaces of parking lots and other unbuilt properties. This demonstrates an incremental approach to development and improvement of the public realm that doesn't depend on big, overnight change, which can be so hard to come by.