City staffers want Aspen council to consider ‘parklets’
Ryan Summerlin November 26, 2012
ASPEN – The concept of “parklets” – tiny and temporary parks created by reclaiming a small number of downtown parking spaces to enhance the overall pedestrian experience – will be discussed during Tuesday’s Aspen City Council work session.
The meeting begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the council’s meeting room in the basement of City Hall, 130 S. Galena St. The council also meets Monday at 5 p.m. for a regular meeting at which a revised plan for a lodge and townhouses on South Aspen Street, near Juan Street, is expected to be discussed.
Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer, suggested in a recent memorandum to council members that parklets could be one way of tackling the council’s stated goal of making movement around downtown a more pleasant, safe and efficient process for all modes of traffic.
In recent years, parklets have sprouted in places such as San Francisco and Long Beach, Calif.; Philadelphia; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Adelaide, Australia. Boston and Houston could be next on the list, according to a story in the November issue of Landscape Architecture magazine. Some of them have the feel of a living room connected to a sidewalk; they are places where people are encouraged to sit and relax within an urban setting.
Some of the characteristics said to be ideal for the consideration of a parklet include close proximity to walk-up businesses (such as coffee and sandwich shops), enthusiasm from adjacent businesses, mid-block locations, sun exposure and views, Guthrie said in her memo.
Most parklets that have been built are the size of two parking spaces, or about 320 square feet, the memo said. City staffers have identified the following possible locations: along restaurant row on East Hopkins Avenue, adjacent to The Big Wrap on South Hunter Street near East Durant Avenue and next to Peach’s Corner Cafe on South Galena Street.
“We have done some initial outreach to businesses and building owners in those areas,” Guthrie wrote. “In general, the restaurant row tenants like the idea, particularly because the existing outdoor seating along the sidewalk is very pinched and sometimes conflicts with parallel parking along the street. Retail businesses near The Big Wrap were concerned with any loss of parking.”
Numerous details would need to be addressed before establishing a parklet, she continued.
“Are the parklets to be used exclusively by an adjacent restaurant or are they open for public seating?” she wrote. “Who pays for the construction and maintenance of the parklets? How are they designed and furnished? Should they move locations from season to season?”
Pros of building parklets include improved livability, vitality, increased foot traffic, more informal gathering places, street beautification, flexibility (since they are easy to reconfigure based on what works and what doesn’t) and relatively limited investment, the memo said.
Cons include the loss of parking revenue and parking availability.
“The city will likely need to participate in the costs of the parklet platform. Parklets can only be used seasonally as opposed to other forms of open space,” Guthrie wrote.