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Now open: Sugar Plum’s 15th Ave E parklet — Meanwhile, Seattle making sidewalk cafes easier

Trading street parking for places to sit and mingle in front of businesses across Seattle, streateries and parklets have been mostly about planning since the first wave was created and installed a few years back. There has been a lull in the actual construction and placement of the features but it looks like the pace might be picking up — you’ll find a new streatery open this week on 15th Ave E. A Melrose parklet is coming next. Meanwhile, the Seattle Department of Transportation is also looking for Capitol Hill food and drink establishments that might want to test out its new program to make it easier to create a light-weight sidewalk patio set-up without some of the heavier design elements required in the past.

IMG_7755On 15th Ave E, Makini Howell is happy to have finally had the red tape cleared and contractor time booked to create her long awaited streatery in front of her vegan sweet shop, Sugar Plum. The new feature bumped a bike corral across the street to in front of Rione XIII. The new Sugar Plum-payed-for parklet was designed by Graham Baba architects and constructed by Weld and Glue. It features a garden design by Bevington Floral.

Meanwhile, another planned streatery in front of Mamnoon on Melrose Ave is also nearing construction this month, according to the restaurant’s management.

The parklets have been in planning since last year but the path to bringing them into the real world tends to meander. Last we checked, this was the roster of Hill parklets and streateries either constructed or being planned:

  • Montana — E Olive Way (built!)
  • Sugar Plum — (built!)
  • Comet and Lost Lake — 10th/Pike
  • Mamnoon — Melrose
  • Bottleneck Lounge — E Madison
  • Ernest Loves Agnes — 19th Ave E

The hybrid streateries combine a parklet concept with traditional sidewalk patios to create small seating and deck areas for customers in sections of the streetside typically reserved for parking. When the sponsoring businesses aren’t open, the streateries are intended to serve as public space.

UPDATE: Sugar Plum is celebrating the new parklet with free ice cream cones:

SDOT is also looking for restaurants and bars to be part of a trial of a new rule set for the city’s sidewalk cafes following changes to state liquor laws:

Thanks to a recent change by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, restaurants can now outline permitted sidewalk cafes with pavement markers instead of the standard 42-inch high fences. Modeled on the sidewalk seating used in many European cities, this fence-free option will allow Seattle restaurants to integrate their sidewalk cafes with adjacent public space and improve customer movement. Other U.S. cities, such as Portland and San Francisco already allow fence-free sidewalk cafes similar to those that will be tested in Seattle’s pilot program.

Under the pilot program, SDOT will install new “Cafe Boundary” pavement markers:cafe-marker-1

We will work with participants to install pavement markers on the sidewalk to outline the boundary of the cafe, as shown in the diagram below. Through this pilot permit, we will test the viability of a fence-free sidewalk cafe with applicants who are willing to provide feedback during our evaluation. Although the fence-free sidewalk cafes are intended to activate streets, create more vibrant neighborhoods, and support economic vitality, ultimately SDOT is committed to ensuring that our streets and sidewalks serve the traveling public. As such, City staff will pay particular attention to any negative impacts on pedestrian mobility and safety that may arise during the pilot phase.

In 2011, SDOT revised its sidewalk cafe rules to allow tables and chairs to be placed in areas between tree wells.

Check out the SDOT Sidewalk Cafe page or program fact sheet (PDF) for more information.

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18 thoughts on “Now open: Sugar Plum’s 15th Ave E parklet — Meanwhile, Seattle making sidewalk cafes easier

  1. I saw the 15th ave one last night. Its really bulky and imposing. I prefer the one in front of Montana much better.

    These should be air and inviting – maybe include some greenery. This thing looks like a fortress, very uninviting.

  2. I’m tired of businesses that make “sidewalk eating” a possibility and go to great pains to make things actually permanently bolted to the sidewalk, but many of these places (whether legally or illegally) have these places that they never use it even June through August and just take advantage of property that the city basically gives to them for practically nothing noting that they’d pay a hefty per square foot charge if it was in their actual building.

    • I can’t really tell what you are saying here. Are you complaining about outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants? Outdoor seating provides city dwellers (who don’t have private outdoor space) a place to sit and enjoy our beautiful summer weather. We can’t have enough of it as far as I’m concerned.

    • The funeral for this parking spot (which actually was a bike corral) will be this Friday at 5pm. I hope to see you there.

  3. I can’t believe anyone would miss a filthy parking spot. I’ve hung out there twice already while I ate my ice cream and it’s actually kind of fun to be right next to the traffic like that. Also, you can enjoy the steady stream of hand wringing locals who walk by, disparaging it!

  4. This “parklet” concept does not sit right with me, because basically it allows a private business to expand by usurping public land. And for free! (except for the construction cost, apparently.).

    I agree with others that this parklet is bulky and unattractive. It is a negative addition to the streetscape on an otherwise nice street.

  5. It’s not free for the business. In addition to the $1300 up-front fee for permits and design review, they also pay annually for the use of the space. Per the Streatery Handbook:

    Because streateries provide a direct economic benefit to the hosting businesses, you will need to pay fees for using the public right of way. For a streatery, the occupation fee is the same as for a sidewalk café: $1.56 per square foot. For a “standard” streatery in one parking space (6 feet x 20 feet) this fee will be about $190 per year.
    You will also need to pay an annual replacement fee for every parking space that your streatery uses on a block. If your streatery is in an area with paid parking, this fee will be $3,000 per parking space. In areas with unpaid parking, you’ll pay $300 per parking space.These fees are consistent with the rates charged for other private uses of a parking space, such as car sharing permits.

    In certain cases, SDOT is able to “redesign” the parking arrangement on a block face when a streatery is installed to retain the maximum number of parking spaces. While this may reduce the replacement fee you’ll pay, every streatery project will need to pay for the use of at least one parking space

    • shh, @joe, stop providing facts to counter knee-jerk, reactionary comments. don’t you know that it’s opinions and feelings that matter the most? not your links to rules and regulations.

  6. I think it looks great. I much prefer public space being used for seating then for storage of private property (vehicles). And this is a space for anybody to use- not just sugar plum customers.

    • Such a short-sighted perspective. A parking space is much more valuable to the city and businesses than a wood box for homeless to collect. Yes, I lived on the hill and saw these occupied as such in the early morning hours

      I have come back to the hill to visit restaurants and stores. Guess what – can’t find parking because of all the silly reasons to take away spots (parklets being one of them), so I search for a while, then leave and go elsewhere. The businesses lose from lost revenue, the city loses parking fee and taxes on purchases.