Parklets: Urban Parks Sprouting Around Town
If you are the kind of person that can appreciate the hustle and bustle that urban streets provide than you may feel particularly interested in this new trend of parklets. Parklets are basically parallel parking spots that are transformed into little urban parks. Architectural Record devoted a page this fall to “the ultimate revenge on the modern city: one less parking space, one more park.”
This neat idea of pedestrian hangouts promotes walking, biking or skating around town and gives you one more reason to leave those car keys on the kitchen table at home. They also have urban eclectic design appeal that city folks are attracted to. So far, they are most prevalent in the city of San Francisco with roughly 33 applications installed and several more in the works.
Most people are unfamiliar with the term parklets since it is relatively new. In 2005, the very first idea sprang from an unofficial activist project by an art studio in the city. They simply fed a parking meter with coins, laid down a sod of grass, and placed a potted plant on top of it. Ever since the idea of mini urban parks sprouted, the demand has been spreading to other cities around the United States. Parklets are a part of the new urbanism trend that city planners are now using as there blueprint for future downtown design.
Why are these parklets good for the environment? Well for starters, they promote a sense of community and are a great place for people to congregate and vibe out with the sun’s rays and a great coffee. In addition, they represent interconnectivity between the city and the city dweller by providing more options to hang out, ride public transportation or cruise around on bicycles. This all bodes well for the atmosphere and for peoples overall health and quality of life.
Parklets are attractive green spaces that lure in customers, which ultimately translates into better business for the nearby shops. The installation is minimal regarding construction and they aren’t always permanent spaces. They can be built for temporary use also which works well for any changes or upgrades that may make in the future.
San Francisco’s Green Streets Project conducted a study and found that after parklets were installed 37% of pedestrian traffic increased on weekday nights. Perhaps the most impressive parklet was installed on Powell Street in San Francisco (below) in 2011 called the Powell Street Promenade. This parklet is an impressive two block long space that was sponsored by Audi.
The car company provided the cost of 890,000 for this block parklet and Edward Mayor Lee had this to say regarding the new digs, “This unique public private non-profit partnership creates a safe, green, forward thinking and contemporary space for everyone to enjoy.” The Promenade is fully equipped with benches, seating, Wi-Fi that’s connected to solar panels and LED lighting that gives the aluminum panels a glow from the grating.
The curbside mini urban hangouts have been catching on in cities like Philadelphia, Vancouver, Long Beach, and Oakland. Don’t be surprised if you see one of them pop up in your neighborhood soon. Urban planning has taken a front seat in developments and infrastructure design. Parklets are an integral part of the process of making a city walkable, desirable, sustainable and convenient. Have you ever stumbled across a parklet?
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