Parklets & the CommunityUnderstanding parklets and their impact on communities and businesses
Since their origination in San Francisco under the name of ‘Parklet’, various cities have adopted their own name to describe the process of converting one or more street parking spaces into a small public “park”, including People Spots, Street Seats, Streateries, Pocket Parks, Street Patio, Spark and more. Regardless of their name, these special “parks” introduce new streetscape features such as seating, landscaping, bicycle parking and provide additional outdoor eating areas for restaurants and coffee shops.
While parklets are primarily intended as assets for the entire community and normally must have “Public Parklet” signage identifying them as such, they encourage increased pedestrian activity which can lead to increased sales at nearby businesses by breaking the flow of foot traffic and offering passersby a reason to stop, socialize and relax.
The best designed parklets take into consideration all amenities that would benefit the immediate surroundings, such as benches, lighting, planters, and landscaping. If bicycle racks can be incorporated into the parklet design, it can increase the number of potential patrons at local businesses and encourage more people to travel by bicycle.
Establishing a local parklet normally begins as a proposal by an individual or group who commits to the process and expense of gaining community support for their vision, applying for a parklet permit, designing the parklet, submitting proposals and all required documentation to the relevant authorities, organizing the installation and taking responsibility for ongoing maintenance.
All parklets must comply with local regulations and design criteria which put user safety and functionality at the forefront. They are limited to where they can be positioned in relation to bus stops, utilities and street corners, are required to have a perimeter of a specific height while still providing vistas across the street and end buffer zones to safely separate the seating area from vehicle traffic. They must possess all required permits, meet ADA requirements, maintain roadway drainage, allow for access to any below-ground utilities, be properly insured, possess a maintenance plan and enhance the vibrancy of the area with seating and landscaping.
Parklets are a wonderful addition to any neighborhood and Architrex is committed to making more parklets a reality in more cities with its innovative and widely accepted StreetDeck system and expanding library of city specific parklet information to assist in your pre-planning process.
Parklet Impact Studies
From social to economic, to simply adding a delightful place to take a seat, the positive impact parklets have on their communities is often quite remarkable.
Here’s what some major cities have reported as specific benefits directly arising from their respective parklet programs.
In 2014, the Metropolitan Planning Council and Sam Schwartz Engineering in Chicago observed 450 visitors at Chicago’s nine People Spots. We interviewed 100 visitors and almost 40 adjacent business owners. When a parking spot becomes a People Spot…
- 80% of businesses found People pots brought more foot traffic and customers some businesses found a People Spot caused a 10 to 20% increase in sales
- 34% of visitors made unplanned food or 34% beverage purchases
- 33% would be at home if not for the People Spot
A whopping 93 percent said the feeling of the street is more positive since the People Spot opened. They added, “It makes people comfortable,” “gives a better sense of community,” “slowed down traffic,” “gives us a better image,” “it’s attractive,” “makes the street look cleaner“, and that “no question it has enhanced the pedestrian experience.”
Seattle’s Department of Transportation conducted a study on local Parklets and found the following:
- 70% of businesses believe Parklets enhance the look and feel of their neighborhood
- 80% of businesses believe parklets benefit the business community
- 90% of the people surveyed want more Parklets built in Seattle
- 100% of the people surveyed believe that Parklets provide a useful neighborhood space
Regardless of where you look or who you ask, Parklets make a difference and they are growing in numbers throughout the country.
In 20011 SFGreatStreets.org conducted the “Parklet Impact Study” to gain information on the influence of parklets on pedestrian traffic, behavior and perception of the area at three different Parklets after they were installed. These findings pertain to one or more of the Parklets studied.
- Average foot traffic increased 44% per hour
- The average number of people stopping to engage in stationary activities at any given time, and primarily on weekdays, tripled.
- There was an incremental increase in the number of bikes parked at each location.
- Perception of the area as a good place for socializing and as a place that looked clean increased.
- Business owners saw no decrease in customer traffic, and some saw increases.
- Most businesses observed that the customers arrived to their location by foot.
- None of the businesses expressed concern about the parklets creating loss of nearby parking.
In summary, the most tangible benefit of Parklets identified is the creation of a new public space for anyone to sit, relax, and enjoy the city. The number of people stopping to socialize in a positive way increased significantly in all areas tested, and no negative impacts on nearby businesses were identified.
People St is a program within the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation that launched in 2014 to foster a greater sense of community by transforming underused roadways into vibrant spaces for neighborhoods to enjoy.
Several Parklets were surveyed and the following are some anticipations and realizations expressed by business owners because of Parklets being installed:
- 50% of businesses felt they would need more employees over the next 12 months.
- 80% of businesses said they expected more customers.
- 70% of businesses anticipated both revenue and profit to increase.
- Foot traffic, sales volume and sales volume by neighboring businesses did increase.
The Great Street Project organization in New York City was partially responsible for the Divisadaro Street parklet, which was constructed as a 6 month long pilot project. 42 additional parklets were constructed in New York following the successful project.
- The average number of weekday visitors doubled
- Pedestrian activity measured in the number of people per hour increased by 37% on weekday evenings.
- The overall consensus was that the parklet was a benefit to public health.
And remember, New York City’s Department of Transportation offers large reimbursements on nearly all expenses associated with parklets.
The University City District (UCD) partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities to pilot Philadelphia’s first parklet which was deemed “an innovative temporary seating platform that transforms parallel parking spaces into a place to sit, relax, eat and enjoy street life”.
In 2015 UCD gained national attention after publishing “The Case for Parklets: Measuring the Impact on Sidewalk Vitality and Neighborhood Businesses”, which was a study based on analyses of six Parklets from the 2013 season and their ability to increase social vibrancy and foot traffic to neighborhood businesses.
Key findings were:
- A 240 sq ft parklet can attract over 150 unique users in a day, utilizing a space that would otherwise have hosted one or two parked cars.
- Parklets coincided with an average 20% increase is sales for nearby businesses.
- People using the parklets often spilled over into neighboring sidewalks and more distant business, as opposed to just passing through.
- Parklet success can be predictable, meaning there is extreme confidence in the effect parklets have on their surroundings.
Boston’s Office of Transportation conducted a pilot program of two parklets in 2014, and soon after sought to improve and expand the Parklet Program due to these positive findings:
- The parklets quickly energized the neighborhood and increase vitality.
- Immediate use, positive user experience and integration into the neighborhood was felt.
- Half the respondents surveyed had already visited the parklet(s) multiple times.
- Parklets were found to operate as social spaces, with increased human interaction observed.
- The majority of visitors claimed to have visited nearby businesses before or after using the parklet.
- Plants, shade and seating were the favorite aspects of the parklets.
- Surveyed business owners said half their customers admitted to using the parklet prior to shopping.
- The majority of businesses surveyed would recommend a parklet to other businesses.
- The sponsoring businesses generally felt the City made the process of acquiring a parklet easy.
Portland Oregon began a Street Seats Pilot Program operated by the Bureau of Transportation in 2012. Their two main goals were to enhance street vitality and support local businesses. Three businesses participated in the programs and a large sample of pedestrians and surrounding business owners were surveyed.
- 90% of businesses surveyed believed that the program benefitted neighborhood businesses, not just the businesses in close proximity to the parklets.
- 80% of pedestrians surveyed believed the parklets positively impacted their streets vitality.
Many cities have published quite detailed information about their parklet programs including site and design considerations, planning requirements and suggested parklet designs. The following links lead to sites and downloads we have found most useful and informative.