Boston paving the way for parklets

Freewheel Parklet, Valencia Street San Francisco.

City officials this week put out a call for experts to create cozy, compact mini-parks that will begin sprouting up along some city sidewalks next year.

This week’s request for proposals taps people for the design, fabrication and implementation of three to four urban “parklets,” tiny pedestrian oases that would extend sidewalks into parking spaces to provide miniature parks for three out of four seasons.

“Parklets have the potential to increase pedestrian oriented activity on streets and sidewalks, as well as shopping and main street districts,” said Vineet Gupta, director of planning at the Boston Transportation Department.

The success of parklets in New York City and San Francisco was what partially inspired Boston officials to get a taste of parklet turf, but after hearing the demand from local businesses and neighborhood associations, city officials decided early this year to get this test run off the ground.

“Depending on how those go, we’d expand in subsequent years,” Gupta said.

When asked about the safety concerns associated with making a parking space into a recreational space, Gupta said the parklets would have barriers to protect pedestrians from cars, and that business partners would be responsible for their maintenance – not the city.

In response to the potential of the city’s homeless population setting up camp in parklets, Gupta said, “We don’t expect it to be any more of a problem than what happens on a sidewalk bench. We think that with neighborhood support, there will always be someone keeping an eye out.”

But a question on everyone’s mind: Will this annoy Boston motorists already frustrated with a lack of parking in the Hub?

“We only want to locate these where we have a need for them as well as a request from community and frankly full support of local businesses,” Gupta said, adding there will be public meetings before parklet locations are decided. “If the community thinks that the two spaces that would be used by a parklet are important to them, and they’re not interested, that that’s it.”


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