Tuesday, October 14, 2014

3 ways that parklets could help [Newark] businesses

Cross-posted from CityLab -- How you feel about parklets - street-parking spaces converted into temporary gathering spots - depends in large part on how you get around the city. If you walk or take a bike, and generally prefer a more human scale to the urban environment, you probably love these little plazas and sitting places. If you drive and spend much of your life in the endless Costanzian battle that is finding a parking spot, you probably don't.

Those positions aren't likely to budge anytime soon. So the real tiebreaking question, at least in terms of public opinion, is how businesses themselves feel about repurposing their storefront parking spots for pedestrians. If Chicago retailers are any indication, get ready for the parklets.

Chicago started allowing businesses to create parklets called People Spots a few years ago. Nine emerged across the city: two in Andersonville, four in Lake View, one in the downtown Loop, and two in Bronzeville. This past summer, the local Metropolitan Planning Council evaluated the business impact of these spots by recording a full day's activity at each and interviewing parklet users and retailer owners alike. [Full article ...]

Poster's note: This could be a wonderful opportunity for Newark if the space was available for proper buffering - and some kind of noise protection. According to the Newark Post, City staff is currently discussing the concept. With sidewalk space already tight, parklets would have to occupy parallel parking spaces between the curb and lane of traffic. With drivers texting and on cell phones, and deafening noise from modified exhaust systems in motorcycles and cars, it's doubtful many will want to sit immediately adjacent to the traffic lanes. At least one instance of a vehicle crashing into a parklet has been recorded. Unless the Newark police start enforcing the law where quality of life is concerned, including vehicle noise ordinances, a better use would be to install a few bicycle parking corrals. This would help maintain space on the sidewalk, while providing the same benefit of greater pedestrian visibility.

“Like locusts eating the fields, so do cars take possession of our streets and squares”  ~ W. Forst

Of course, true progress would mean full or at least partial pedestrianization of Main Street, as seen below in the City of Charlottesville VA. Here, residents relax and enjoy a peaceful, non-threatening 8 blocks of totally car-free space. On Main Street in Newark, that is anything but the case, and may never be.

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