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New Westminster’s First Parklet

Earlier today Jonathan Coté announced New Westminster’s first parklet. Strictly speaking he wasn’t the first to announce it, as it was in last night’s Committee of the Whole agenda, but who reads those things?

For those who don’t know, a parklet is a mini park set up as an extension of a sidewalk. They’re not very large, typically fifteen to twenty meters long, and about three meters wide. They’re places for people, set up to allow people to meet, sit, and relax. Vancouver has five parklets, and they’ve been big hits almost everywhere they’ve been put in.

Philadelphia’s University City District did a study looking at why some parklets work better than others and found that the most successful parklet in Philadelphia was located in a medium-density residential neighbourhood, outside a taco shop and a popsicle store. Ideally, you want a main adjacent business with modest interior seating capacity, coupled with high turnover of that seating. You also want large windows on the main adjacent business, which gives a sense of connection between the business interior and the exterior parklet.

That said, where is this new parklet going to be located? In Sapperton, on E Columbia Street between Braid and Cedar. Specifically, it will be right in front of Fratelli Bakery and The Bloom Bloom Room, right where this black SUV is parked:

Note that that picture is from June 2014, and The Bloom Bloom Room opened beside Fratelli’s three weeks ago.

Do those businesses meet the criteria? Fratelli’s probably meets the first one (I don’t know, I’ve never been). The windows on both businesses are large and inviting (and I hope The Bloom Bloom Room has removed the bars from their windows!). I suspect that if the BBR puts flower displays out front, it’ll make the whole area even more inviting.

To put things into more context, here’s the current sidewalk:

…and here’s the proposed sidewalk with the parklet:

Now, of course, this wouldn’t be a post about New Westminster without some discussion of parking. This parklet is going to remove two parking spots. Luckily, that end of Sapperton doesn’t get much business and, as such, there is almost always parking available. And if we go back to that University City District study, they found that business owners reported a 20 percent increase in sales in the two weeks following a parklet installation. This jives with stats from California that found a 9-20 percent average increase in local business revenue.

This is to be the first of five New Westminster parklets installed over the next five years. I look forward to visiting Sapperton’s once it’s installed!

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