Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Return of the Parklet Idea Generates Discussion

You might remember a downtown night three years ago when folks tried to audition a parklet.

A Parklet with picnic table, hobby horse, and potential for fun

It was even permitted!

But the City shut it down anyway
For reasons that were never made fully clear, the City shut it down. Since then it hasn't been tried.

But over on the Facebook perhaps there is new interest.

And maybe this summer there will be strong enough interest to make a go of it again!

The criticisms are the same ones, and there's nothing new to say here on them. But maybe they are losing force, and there is new appreciation for the reasons for parklets.

Attracting more people, many of whom currently find the vast amount of carspace a deterrent to visiting and enjoying downtown, will help enliven downtown with more people and more commerce.

Sidewalks can get tight; more space could be helpful
If there is a side-by-side couple, or a family walking, or a person walking a bike, in between the tables and other furniture, they sometimes have to go single file. There's often not room for bi-directional walking traffic on the sidewalks. The sidewalks can indeed get crowded.

More room would be nice!

Court Street section with proposed 30 foot sidewalk- 1996
Back in the 1996 Riverfront/Downtown Core Area Master Plan, there was even a concept for much wider sidewalks. But we never did it! Parklets would be a much cheaper way to pilot some partial sidewalk widening.

Parklet for Parking:  172% increase in retail sales!
Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets
New York City Department of Transportation
Additionally, there is evidence that parklets increase retail sales. There is evidence that reallocating elements of carspace strategically to add peoplespace increases business. Really!

Hopefully this conversation can continue and gain support, and maybe this summer downtown and its merchants will want to experiment again.


Anonymous said...

I can see demand for this in front of Venti's, the Gov. Cup, and Wild Pear. The desire for outdoor seating there exceeds demand and its common that those places can't seat all their customers inside. But in other areas of downtown, I just don't see the demand. Liberty has huge sidewalks that are mostly empty with vacant storefronts. I think parklets serve a purpose in dense urban areas where there are lots of people and a shortage for places to gather and linger. Salem isn't one of those places. As the the past experiment you indicate shows, just because you put a parklet on the street does not mean people are going to flock to it and energize downtown. Its more likely to be another example of ornamental emptiness.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I like your point that a parklet can be an inexpensive way to test and idea. That it did not work in one place does not mean that it won't work in another place. I hope the idea inspires some business person to try it again. They are portable rather than permanent so that to me makes them an attractive idea.

In reading about parklets I discovered that they can be used to liven up spaces other than just in downtown areas. Some have tried them in parking lots of malls and some have used them in schools. Any place you have a concrete desert you could liven up the place with a small park...or parcel.

I was recently at Keizer Station and was once again reminded why I hate that place. There is just too much asphalt and too little green space. I saw a family chatting about something in the parking lot. They were engaged for some time in conversation but had not place to sit except on the curb or in their car. It occurred to me that it sure would have been nice if there had been a little bit of a green space with a bench or maybe even a table.

Lancaster Mall is a desert of asphalt too. Why not a little park-like green space somewhere?

You talk all the time about the blank spaces that we create. I think that little gathering places with color and a few amenities like benches could help combat this situation and I think it would draw people to local businesses.