25 Jul 2012

A Little Green in a Mass of Concrete: The New Urban Concept

(Photo is from the City of San Francisco Department of Public Works’s web site)

‘Parklet’ is the term for a tiny piece of land that is dedicated for use as a park in an urban environment. Started in 2005 as a project of the design firm, Rebar, in San Francisco, the idea has caught on in Chicago and Philadelphia as well. The object of the ‘parklet’ is to convert a parking space or spaces on the road to a patch of green; complete with earth, grass, seating and, perhaps, foliage. In San Francisco the most ambitious parklet is on Powell Street. Some 100,000 pedestrians walk this street every weekend. So, as the local newspaper says, “if nothing else the widened sidewalks ought to help accommodate the out-of-town masses”, with free Wi-Fi as an added bonus. Originating from the decision by New York City to make portions of Broadway a pedestrian only place, with tables and chairs and plants scattered throughout the space, San Francisco developed a miniature version that became known as a ‘parklet’. San Francisco has an official policy now on how to create such ‘parklets’. Joining San Francisco is Philadelphia, which created its first ‘parklet’ out of two parking spaces. Chicago, too, is interested in this new concept. It is working with a private developer to bring ‘parklets’ to the Clark Street portion of the Far North Side Andersonville neigbourhood.

Funding comes from different sources. In San Francisco, some are funded by the private sector, some by government grants and some by non-profit organisations or foundations. In Philadelphia the funding came from a non-profit foundation. In Chicago, the funding is spear-headed by a non-profit organization with the help of individual donations.

For more information about ‘parklets’, please see:

Senior Researcher, Seth B Benjamin