At the recent Accelerate 2015 (Cleveland Leadership Center) awards (http://www.cleveleads.org/AccelerateNEO/pitch-presenters), Cleveland natives and returnees, Whitney Hallock and Caroline Wagner, presented the idea for Project Parklet to transform the Cleveland area streetscape. Speaking on NPR, the ladies mentioned they took their inspiration from the urban parklets in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.. Parklets break up the urban landscape and provide a landing pad for shoppers and pedestrians and offer a unique place to stop, site, chat, eat or meet. They have sprouted around the U.S. in cities like Phoenix, Philadelphia, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas, Seattle, and San Diego.
Parklets are simply mini-parks, often privately owned on moveable base and feature bold and natural designs. The beauty is to repurpose extra or unused parking spaces flush with the sidewalk with eye of serving the pedestrian or biking public. Also known as “temporary sidewalk extensions” http://pavementtoparks.sfplanning.org/parklets.html, parklets feature attractive seating and landscaping and act as a mini-oasis in the city.
The main challenges, much like our work on the conversion of East 4th several years ago to a pedestrian only street http://www.east4thstreet.com, is getting a city comfortable to relax zoning requirements and embrace how streets are changing in the city center. The demand for parking spaces must be balanced with the growing walking public and the desire of those consumers for outdoor space. Maintenance, traffic control and safety and movability for street maintenance and snow removal are reasonable concerns. Many parklet designs respond to the safety issues with fencing, decking and railings that read more like sculpture than garden railing. Businesses are sponsoring parklets in front of its restaurants or shops as a way to attract more business and keep shoppers and diners engaged while waiting for friends or for a table. Coming soon to a café near you – sure, we can wait 20 minutes for a table.
Below is a video which describes the creation of a Parklet in Portland, Oregon. The comments in the video apply to communities everywhere.