There is a rising trend for on-street Parklets popping up across the world, in the US there are over 3,000 of them, with Canada and Australia not far behind. In the UK their growth has been slow until now, however in the past year over 40 on-street Parklets have been installed in London alone with 100’s more in the pipeline.
Firstly what is a Parklet?
A Parklet is typically an extended platform over a parking space or pavement extension covering one or two car parking bays. A parklet generally combines elements such as, but not limited to benches, tables, chairs, landscaping, bike parking or lighting that reflect the unique character and needs of the location. They offer an interesting public space for people to sit, relax and enjoy the city around them, while providing an aesthetic enhancement to the overall streetscape.
Parklets are an efficient idea as they do not require a permanent concrete base, therefore they are much faster and less expensive way for the city to provide improvements to a neighbourhood. This helps foster a sense of community by creating a welcoming public space. Parklets create wider footpaths, providing more space for people to walk, especially in narrow and congested areas. Additionally, they provide healthier streets from a selection of plants grown in these spaces. This makes the area a ‘liveable neighbourhood’, meaning it helps make a healthy, accessible and safe neighbourhood for people to live in; providing dynamic public spaces for all members of the community.
How do they affect the neighbouring businesses?
Businesses where Parklets are located outside have shown an amazing 20% to 30% uplift in revenue within the first 12 months. They help make local businesses look vibrant and provide seating which could attract potential customers.
This amazing outdoor area has stools and tables, as well as a child friendly area with room for pushchairs also.
Individual planting schemes are agreed upon a clients requirements. Requirements may be different trees, plants and herbs, in relation to low maintenance, air pollution or drought resistant. Parklets are commonly located outside of businesses, providing facilities for their customers and local residents. Some of the parklets contain a variety of games for children, making it a family friendly spot.
What innovations are possible on Parklets?
Parklets can be designed to have charging points and wifi incorporated into them, this makes sponsoring the Parklet more attractive as users register to use the Wifi.
A comprehensive maintenance package is available from the suppliers to keep the plants healthy. This includes; removal of dead leaves, any debris, plant feed, pruning and plant replacements (due to natural failures).
Presently, most funding is coming from public sources. In London the funding is from the Mayor’s office. This is in accordance to the liveable neighbourhoods program and around trying to approve the air quality in London. Parklets are typically sponsored by private partners but are free and open for any member of the public.
However, private sector funding is being made available from corporate sponsorship. Meristem Design have had parklets paid for by private businesses, or alternatively the parklets maintenance paid for by private businesses. An example is the Hammersmith Grove Parklets, in London, which were partly sponsored by the company Medidata. The Parklet was right outside Medidata’s office, making it a great opportunity for their staff and customers to utilise the space, as well as getting their name on the Parklet.
In the US there are over three thousand parklets, in the UK so far there are around thirty. This is evidence that these spaces do work and are utilised by the public. As showcased by the companies and the public sector in the US, for the UK to install more parklets some key areas need to be worked on. These include promotion, a tool kit, a portal with location requests and engagement.
The word about Parklets needs to be spread through, marketing, council websites and through associations such as the National Licensing Association, which is connected to pubs, restaurants and clubs throughout London. A tool kit or parklet manual will provide information on the application process, fees, responsibilities, design guidelines, and technical requirements, making it easier for clients to understand the full system. Additionally, a portal with location requests would be beneficial, so people, businesses and local authority are able to recommend a location that needs a parklet. Lastly, clear engagement needs to take place through something like a Twitter parklet page which could contain feedback on the parklets installed.