Economic Development, Government, and Sustainability

Parklets may take over parking spaces this spring

December 20, 2013
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Grand Rapids may see its first parklets greening up downtown come spring.

The Parking Commission heard information recently from Tim Kelly, planning manager at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., about the opportunity for turning a few parking spaces downtown into parklets for a portion of the year.

Parklets are created by turning on-street parking spaces into mini-parks that can be used by pedestrians. Typically, these spaces include benches or tables and chairs to entice visitors and are decorated with planters or other landscaping. Businesses also can use parklets to extend their outdoor seating.

Parklets have been lauded for increasing economic development, providing a unique experience for downtown visitors and improving the streetscape, Kelly said.

Typically, parklets are constructed by building a platform that extends from the sidewalk over the parking space, he said.

One feature of parklets is that they do not have to be permanent. Members of the parking commission discussed allowing parklets from April through November, after which they would be uninstalled and stored for the winter months.

In July, the Downtown Development Authority board amended its Streetscape Improvement Incentive Program to include parklets as an eligible expense. The amendment allows the DDA to reimburse up to 50 percent, not to exceed $35,000, of project costs for the installation of a parklet. Kelly said the installation cost has been estimated at between $15,000 and $20,000.

Businesses would have to apply to construct a parklet and then, once approved, would be responsible for its cost — 50 percent of which may be reimbursed by DGRI — and for the annual de-installation, maintenance and insuring the parklet. The permit would be good for a year and then would have to be approved for renewal.

The DDA has been working with the city of Grand Rapids and several of its departments to develop guideless for parklet installation that will ensure safety, quality and a positive impact for downtown.

Installation of the first parklets is expected in April 2014.

Kelly said about four businesses have expressed interest in parklets and he expects two or three will be installed this spring.

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