Emerging Mutualistic Relationship Between Parklets and Neighborhood Businesses

Urbanist William H. Whyte says, “There is an elemental point about good spaces: supply creates demand. A good new public space builds a new constituency. It gets people into new habits – such as alfresco lunches – and induces them to use new paths…”

A Concept of Pedestrian Overspills

Parklets are essentially small plots of pedestrian overspill, could be in a form of green spaces, and functionally contribute a huge impact to a the surrounding neighborhood where they are implemented, including being a part of urban commercial corridors. These temporary seating platforms, placed flush with the curb, created an extension of the sidewalk by replacing one or two parking spaces with a small new park (University City District, 2015). Parklets offer a place to stop, to sit, and to rest whenever a pedestrian walking down on a street. In instances where a parklet is not intended to accommodate people, it may provide greenery, art, or some other visual amenity, also may accommodate bicycle parking within it (Ocubillo, 2012). In a nutshell, it is an urban landscape strategy that accommodates, as well as done in accordance with a bike and pedestrian-oriented development approach.


This concept was initially introduced in San Francisco approximately 10 years ago, then occasionally grew into different forms of tactical urbanism concept, including temporary Park(ing) Day events that were spread out in several cities in the United States, such as Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and suburban New Jersey (Goodyear, 2015).



Outdoor-oriented Activities: Urban Luxury

The idea of having an accommodating seating places like parklets is actually pretty common on the European cities, who strongly adopts outdoor walking and biking culture as parts of their urban lifestyle. Having time to street sauntering, either alone or with friends and family or your pets, is considered as a basic leisure activity in European life. This kind of purposeless walking is rarely found anymore in auto-centric and hustle bustle cities such in the United States or emerging economy countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, or elsewhere.


Outdoor relaxing in a city has become a luxury for many of people, since most of the city infrastructures and amenities are focused on motorised vehicles rather than humans. However, through some guerilla movements, small portions of outdoor amenities are constructed, either as temporary or seasonal fixtures or permanently. Some of them are successful, some of them failed. But in general, the outdoor projects that are successful are the projects that can address the need of the local city stakeholders, or even create a new ‘need’ so the built instruments can pertain for a longer period.


Parklets: A Proven Best Practice that Conducts a Good Relationship Between Outdoor Spaces and F & B Retails

Parklet is one of proven best practice of innovation projects that can be considered successful in promoting vital green landscape and vibrant outdoor activities, after overcoming so many detractors and problems during initial implementation. In general, parklets have been well-received in communities all over the U.S. (Goodyear, 2015). According to The New York Times, In the last couple of years, at least 72 more parklets have materialized worldwide in places like Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, Mexico City, and Auckland, where in cities with cold weather, sponsors of parklets are typically required to removed them in winter. Many cities choose to install these sites in order to create more public space by creating places for people to sit, relax and enjoy the city (City of Vancouver). Eating, drinking, and talking with others are the most common activities done in a parklet, including solitary pursuits such as reading or writing (Goodyear, 2015).


In San Francisco, parklets are open to the public, but they are usually commisioned by small businesses hoping to attract customers (Claire Martin, 2015). According to a study by UCD (University City District), parklets that are located directly outside the right types of business can create a dynamic that brings a neighborhood together – such as families stopping for dinner or treats, lingering to socialize, and attracting passing acquitances to stop and chat. By observing a couple of most successful parklets in Philadelphia, UCD further explains that there are two strongest predictors of parklet success. First, is the modest interior seating capacity within a main adjacent business, coupled with high turnover of that same interior seating; Secondly, large windows on the main adjacent business, which tend to increase the sense of connection between thee business interior and the exterior parklet space. Roughly 20 to 30 percent of users were not customers of an adjacent businesses, answering concerns that the creation of a parklet removes street space from the public realm for the sole benefit of a private business, which brings at least 20 percent increase in sales following a parklet installation.


A Future Direction in City Planning

The study strongly shows that there is actually a mutualistic relationship between outdoor urban element with local businesses that can be quantified; two entities that are totally different in terms of profitability and their commercial orientation. Food and beverages businesses seem to be the most influential commercial units to outdoor spaces, following the nature of food-related activities that basically shapes the city, and the social value of gathering culture or lounging activities that is also the main core of food and beverage business. However, when outdoor overspill spaces and eateries are combined, it creates a system that works perfectly, and even gives a better value to the functions of each elements. This relationship should be brought into a more advanced and forward thinking approach, i.e. equipped with an effective urban design strategy and supported by the conducive city instruments.


In the hope of giving further direction to enhance more creation of new parklets, this UCD study gave a challenge to all urban stakeholders to rethink the meaning of urban space. There would be higher potential value and benefits that we can get from sacrificing merely a couple or more single parking space along a commercial street in a neighborhood, and converting them into a green and vibrant outdoor space that can be enjoyed by 150 unique users per day (Gupta, 2015).





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