Several studies and demonstration projects cite the following benefits of parklets in a downtown or central business district:
- Economic vibrancy: Boosts local economic strength by attracting more patrons
- Complete streets: Fosters safer and more walkable-, bikeable-, and transit-friendly environments
- Dynamic public spaces: Enhances public-realm activity and fosters placemaking
- Social interaction: Creates gathering spots that encourage opportunities for social exchanges and spontaneous interactions
- Traffic calming: Adds to a more controlled roadway environment when parklets are used in combination with measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior, and improve conditions for non-motorized street users
Although there are recommended design elements and guidelines, parklets can be customized to meet the needs of a community. Wikiblock is an open-source toolkit of design templates that can be downloaded at no cost and used to create street-furniture structures for placemaking initiatives. The Wikiblock library includes designs for benches, chairs, planters, stages, bus stops, beer garden fences, and kiosks to create spaces where people can connect with their city and one another. Its Mobility Parklet design creates a unique parklet, intended to reclaim public space for the pedestrian and incorporates bike racks, ride-share/public transit platforms, and a lounge area.
The Parklet Movement
Many cities establish pilot projects with temporary parklets to test the viability of creating permanent structures. Starting in 2005, the movement of temporary pop-up parklets began when an art studio, Rebar, organized the city-wide takeover of parking spaces in San Francisco, in what became known as PARK(ing) Day. This event has become an international movement and a catalyst for cities that wish to create temporary pop-up parks in curbside parking spaces. These temporary parklets are a great example of tactical urbanism at work.
PARK(ing) Day: Temporarily Transforming Spaces
PARK(ing) Day is an annual, worldwide event, held on the third Friday of September, which inspires communities to creatively transform on-street parking spaces into temporary parklets. The images below are examples of Washington, D.C.'s success during PARK(ing) Day 2017, which had of a variety of pop-up parklet projects throughout the city.
Wilmington's 7th Street Arts Bridge Parklet
As part of participation in the 2017 National PARK(ing) Day, the Creative District Wilmington unveiled it's first parklet along 7th Street Arts Bridge. The 7th Street Arts Bridge is a transformative project in an area in need of renewal. This project was supported by many organizations, such as Wilmington Placemakers Inc., the Challenge Program, and the Wilmington Parking Authority.
Wilmington Placemakers Inc. was in charge of designing this parklet. This nonprofit works to plan, design, execute and manage projects that promote, support and grow community culture, engagement, and wellness.
The Challenge Program worked to build the project along the 7th Street Arts Bridge. The program provides vocational training for Delaware's at-risk youth to empower them with the confidence, skills, and purpose needed to become productive members of society.
Town of Georgetown's East Market Street Parklet
The Town of Georgetown's East Market Street Parklet was designed to be used for outdoor dining, informal seating, and entertaining. The project utilized parallel parking spaces along East Market Street for the purpose of temporarily extending the sidewalk for use as a public gathering spot. The project plan specified that parklets could be placed for one week duration at five different locations along East Market Street (never at the same time). The week following the parklet placement, selected businesses would provide a "parklet impact report" to document usage. The pilot project was projected to last five months during the summer. The sustainable construction incorporated used pallets and pressure-treated lumber. The portable design can be set-up or broken down in only 20 to 30 minutes. Important safety measures were incorporated into the design, such as:
- Dimensions that are one foot less than the the actual width of a parking space
- A 42-inch railing that surrounds three sides, with an opening facing the sidewalk
- The placement of water-filled traffic barriers at both ends, perpendicular to the curb
- 36-inch poly-urethane road markers
Seaford's Portable Parklet
"It [the parklet] has really helped to change the mindset of those that are driving through downtown..."- Trisha Newcomer