The purpose of parklets

via The Journal Record

This Friday, Downtown OKC Inc. will be hosting several parklets in and around downtown Oklahoma City as part of PARK(ing) Day.

PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event on the third Friday in September when parking spaces are transformed into temporary public parks and gathering spaces. The project began in 2005 in San Francisco, where parklets have become very popular and many now exist year-round. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world.

The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat. Parklets are a creative and cost-effective way to add public gathering spaces.

Parklets often function as outdoor extensions to nearby cafes or coffee shops. A tool for both economic development and sense of community, parklets add activity on the sidewalks and often attract business to the surrounding area. In Philadelphia, businesses adjacent to parklets have experienced sales increases of as much as 20 percent immediately after parklets have been installed.

Cities around the world, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, London, São Paulo and Vancouver, have launched individual parklets and parklet programs, with each city having its own guidelines and unique elements.

The city of Oklahoma City offers guidelines related to the creation of parklets. As in many other cities, parklets in Oklahoma City transform one or two normal on-street parking spaces into user-friendly settings that include features found in a traditional park. They are built on a platform over the parking spaces at sidewalk level where pedestrian amenities, such as landscaping, tables, chairs, exercise equipment, benches and bicycle racks are then placed. Parklets are sponsored by private partners, but all amenities in a parklet must remain free and open to the public. The spaces are not exclusive to any business and cannot contain advertising. A permit is required to build a parklet in Oklahoma City.

Parklets in or near downtown Oklahoma City this Friday can be found at Elemental Coffee, Coffee Slingers, Native Roots Market and several other locations. A complete list and interactive map of parklet locations for this year can be found on the Downtown OKC website at http://downtownokc.com/parking-day.

Cathy O’Connor is president and CEO of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City Inc.

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