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Boston picks 3 sites for the city's first-ever 'parklets'

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  May 15, 2013 08:05 PM

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The city has selected three sites that will be home to Boston’s first ever parklets.

Each of the miniature parks will use temporary platforms to convert two on-street parking spaces into mini curbside public parks open during spring, summer and fall. The parklets will be dismantled and stored during winter.

Officials expect to install the first three parklets in late summer or early fall, which will mark the debut of the “boston.Parklets” program that the city hopes to expand to more locations as soon as next spring.

The three sites chosen so far are: at 174 Harvard Ave. in Allston; at 351 Centre St. in Jamaica Plain; and at 1524 Tremont St. in Mission Hill, said Vineet Gupta, director of policy and planning for the Boston Transportation Department. Officials are exploring several sites for a possible fourth parklet.

They will each be about the same length as two parking spaces, roughly 40 feet long, and about 7 feet wide, which, for safety purposes, is slightly narrower than the parking spaces' width.

Designs for the parklets have not been finalized, but each will feature some seating and some more open areas, he said.

Generally, parklets are built to allow for a mixture of benches, chairs, tables, landscaping and bike parking. Other cities, like San Francisco and New York, have launched similar programs.

Each of the first three parklets in Boston will be different from one another, so officials can experiment with a few designs and so that each parklet fits with its surroundings, said Gupta.

The parklets in Mission Hill and JP will be designed by Boston-based Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture. The Allston parklet will be designed by Interboro Partners, a New York City-based planning firm that Gupta said has some local ties.

He said the city was drawn to each site because they are each within busy business districts that already draw a large number of pedestrians.

“The idea is to create some interest and activity on the sidewalk,” he said. “The purpose of these parklets are to make them a community amenity. We want to make sure they will be welcomed and used.”

The sites were also chosen because at each spot the city, which will pay to design and install the parklets, has found at least one neighboring business that has volunteered help monitor the day-to-day upkeep of the parklets.

“The idea being that there is someone that is the eyes and ears for each of these parklets and takes on some basic maintenance responsibilities such as cleaning it at the end of the day,” Gupta said.

The “parklet partner” for the Allston site is @Union Café. In Jamaica Plain, Tacos el Charro and Sonia’s Bridal will be co-“parklet partners.” The Mission Hill parklet will be monitored by Mike’s Donuts and Lilly’s Gourmet Pasta Express.

The partners do not get any special rights to their respective parklets. The parklets are open to the public, just like other city parks.

Table service, advertising or selling products on the parklets is prohibited.

The parklets will be set up and taken down each year on a schedule similar to the Hubway bike share system, disappearing around late November and returning in early April.

Gupta said earlier proposals to install parklets in more residential areas drew some criticism from car owners worried about losing parking. But, in commercial districts, the idea has been well received, he said.

“We worked with local merchants to make sure they’re comfortable with the loss of parking in the area, and for the most part they felt this will create more street activity will help business and will be a benefit for the community and for residents,” he said by phone Wednesday.

“In these three districts [chosen so far], they are all small business districts,” he added. “In the communities surrounding the business districts, we haven’t really heard any complaints from residents, and there’s been support from neighborhood groups.”

He said city officials have held community meetings about the parklets planned for JP and Mission Hill and that a community meeting for Allston residents was scheduled for Wednesday night.

Gupta said he expects the program will grow. But after this year, the city is going to stop funding new parklets, which the Globe has reported will cost about $12,000 each on average.

Design, installation and maintenance of parklets in Boston will be paid for by private business and other organizations, which will first have to get city approval before setting one up.

“We are kind of catalyst for what we hope is a citywide program,” he said. “We are putting an idea out and installing it on the street and we’d like to see what the response is. We don’t know how many locations might emerge next year.”

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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