While its exact location is being kept under wraps for now, CHS has learned that Capitol Hill’s first parking spaces turned mini-park spaces will be on E Olive Way. The mini-park is part of a new initiative by the city to create small privately funded open spaces in the midst of Seattle’s busy streets.
They’re called parklets. The city is rolling out a pilot program for the new public spaces this summer, with the parklet on E Olive Way, as well as one in Belltown and one in Chinatown/ID.
The basic idea is a business will sponsor a parklet by asking the city for permission to change a right-of-way for a parking space (or other small public space) in front of its business to an open public space. While they can’t offer service in the space and turn it into a de facto extension of a cafe or restaurant, businesses pay for everything, including upkeep.
The Seattle Department of Transportation’s Jennifer Wieland, who’s heading up the program from the city’s end, said parklets will minimally include seats and tables, surrounded by some plants and an enclosure. A Capitol Hill business owner familiar with the program says plans also include added bike parking to offset the loss of parking for cars.
“We want to leave a lot of flexibility to the sponsors on the design side so the sponsor can add to the creativity of how they get used,” she said. Basic sidewalk rules still apply, so no booze on parklets even if they’re located outside a bar.
Parklets will not be subject to a public design review process, but there will be public notices posted in a 200-foot radius ahead of their installation. Two weeks prior to parklet construction, the city will take public input.
Wieland said the exact location of the E Olive Way parklet will be released in a few weeks, along with a SDOT website offering more information on the project for other businesses interested in creating these spaces and for neighbors and customers to learn more. She said the Capitol Hill parklet’s sponsor is working with the city to make final design tweaks and collecting input from nearby businesses.
Wieland told CHS that the parklets would be designed for year-round use in Seattle, so expect them to be equipped with umbrellas or canopies.
If the three pilot parklets take off, Wieland said the city hopes to formalize the process for starting a parklet by 2014. In San Francisco, for instance, the city takes applications from businesses once a year.
“This is not the city going out and saying that we should do a parklet,” she said. “The business community is coming out and saying we want this.”
On Capitol Hill, it seems, it might be a matter of how you ask the question — and where you ask it. CHS reported earlier this year to survey results showing business concerns about potential loss of parking along North Broadway from a planned streetcar extension.
Late last year Wieland became SDOT’s Program Development Lead for the Public Space Management Program. The cumbersome title belies the coolness of the job, which is to take a comprehensive look at creative right-of-way uses — food trucks, sidewalk cafes, street festivals, and parklets.
Wieland has a few other intriguing projects on her plate, too. “Alley activation” and “public loos” among the “urgent” issues for the program to tackle, according to a Monday CityCcouncil briefing on the Public Space Management Program. Nord and Canton Alleys near Pioneer Square are being activated now, and the city hopes to expand to similar sites soon.
Have a good idea for a Capitol Hill alley? Wieland wants to hear about it. “I would certainly be open to hearing from folks in Capitol Hill that are interested in alley activation generally and/or have a specific project in mind,” she said.
We’ll be hearing from Wieland and that certain E Olive Way business about Capitol Hill’s first parklet, soon.