Parklet Initiative:

March 17, 2015 | by Brooke Willmes

Parklets are those little temporary spots that re-purpose curb parking spaces for street seating or other miniature public spaces. These parklets have flourished in University City in recent years because of strong support from local businesses and the University City District. UCD acknowledges that replacing parking spaces in other neighborhoods can be a tough sell politically.

They have released a new report for parklet advocates that have some compelling data on the gains to neighborhoods and businesses that can result from the painless re-purposing of one or two parking spaces. The report suggest that supply creates demand, a good new public space builds a new consistency and can stimulate new habits into people. Studies in New York and Los Angeles have confirmed these studies for the most part in central Business Districts.

The UCD has observed conditions at several parklets in outside neighborhood businesses during the 2013-14 parklet season. Some of the parklet saw higher activity then others based on the influences of the types of businesses nearby, The “Taco Shop” saw over 150 unique users over the course of a day in an area that would have saw one or two parking spaces. The “Cafe” shop nearby saw smaller turnover rate because patrons would site and enjoy their coffees and relax for a longer periods of time. The UCD points out in its report that even parklets which were least popular, were still creating more revenue for businesses than one or two parking spots would. The Report saw an average of 20% bump in sales following the introduction of the parklet. Moving these mini-parks from the idea phase to the physical creations is more involved than it might seem.

The process of deciding on a design, shepherding it through the City’s approval process, fundraising, constructing the parks, and coming up with a maintenance plan is an exercise in team building that leaves communities in a stronger position to work together to tackle other neighborhood projects. Not every parklet is meant to be because not all parking spaces and neighborhoods create the same foot track as other popular neighborhood and the UCD is trying to come up with a list of characteristics that are strongly associated with success that should help neighborhoods choose a suitable location for any future locations.

Data and information gathered from PlanPhilly.com

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