One of the interesting urban development’s happening in some places overseas – most notably in San Francisco – is the development of the Parklet. They are effect mini open space designed to enhance the local environment and are created in the space of one or more on-street carparks. But rather than me re-inventing the wheel, here is a description of them from the San Francisco Parklet Manual:

A parklet repurposes part of the street into a public space for people. They are intended as aesthetic enhancements to the streetscape, providing an economical solution to the need for increased public open space. Parklets provide amenities like seating, planting, bike parking, and art. While parklets are funded and maintained by neighbouring businesses, residents, and community organizations, they are publicly accessible and open to all.

The world’s first formal public parklets were initially conceived and installed in San Francisco in 2010. As of February 2013, thirty-eight parklets have been installed throughout San Francisco, and the program is being emulated in cities around the world.

Parklets enhance our neighbourhoods by adding beauty and whimsy to the City’s streets. They reflect the diversity and creativity of the people and organizations who sponsor and design them. They also reflect the City’s commitment to encouraging walking and biking, creating great streets, and strengthening our communities.

Parklets catalyse vitality and activity in the city’s commercial districts. They support local business communities by encouraging pedestrians to linger. Parklets can serve as neighbourhood anchors and destination points—providing spaces for neighbours to gather and get to know one another. Collectively, parklets broaden the potential for the public realm to engage and delight while adding much needed open space to our commercial corridors.

But rather than explain what they are in words, here are some examples from the Parklet Manual although a quick search of Google finds a huge variety of them.

Parklet

Many cities and communities are finding these parklets extremely valuable and I imagine they are really helping to break down the perception from many business people that having space for cars is the most important use of land outside their businesses.

Well the great news is we may be seeing parklets developed here in Auckland. The Kingsland Business Society and the Albert-Eden Local board are holding a competition for students or recent graduates to come up with a design for the area for the footpath area for the Sandringham Rd/New North Rd corner and alongside the Trinity Church Hall. A parklet is one of the options that could be developed, here is the press release:

San Francisco style ‘parklet’ proposed for Kingsland gateway

The trendy inner city suburb of Kingsland could soon be adopting one of the more distinctive design features of the San Francisco streetscape – the parklet.

Seen as a respite from busy urban roads, the parklet offers a mini oasis of calm, usually with seats and plants, and can be used to differentiate one area from another.

Kingsland Business Society manager Christine Foley saw the popularity of parklets on a recent trip to San Francisco. “It was great to see how much locals used even the smallest of spaces” she said. “I am very enthusiastic about what this could do for our urban areas.”

A new Urban Design Competition just launched in Kingsland is looking for a plan to redevelop the entrance to Kingsland village at the corner of Sandringham Road and New North Road and a parklet could be ideal.

The competition focuses on the pavement area outside the Trinity Church Hall on the corner of Sandringham Road and New North Road.

The brief is to design a gateway demarcation and “people place” where the transition of land use occurs going into the village.

Entries are expected to feature distinctive plantings and there is the possibility of parking curb extensions.

Entrants in the competition must be currently enrolled in a design or arts course at Unitec, or the School of Architecture & Planning at the University of Auckland or be a graduate landscape architect with less than three years since graduating.

The winning design will receive a cash prize of $600 and the opportunity for the plan to be further developed, subject to funding and feasibility.

Competition entries will exhibited in Kingsland’s Trinity Church Hall during the Auckland Heritage Festival from late September to early October.

A full design brief for the competition can be found on www.kingslandnz.com.

So if you are a student and are interested in putting an in an entry, the details are here and there is a site briefing next week to go along to.

SITE BRIEFING 4pm Tuesday 3 September at Trinity Church, Cnr Sandringham/New North Rds.  Albert-Eden Local Board representative, Project Consultant and Competition Registrar in attendance.  For more info tel 379 5553

Another great aspect of this project is that it appears the free left turn out of Sandringham Rd is being removed

Sandringham Rd-New North Rd intersection

Back to parklets, they are something that I suspect would work well in many of our town centres, particularly those in and around the city centre. Another way to think of them is that they provide parking for non-motorised transport modes. Not only this but they can they help provide more public open space without the costly and disruptive process of buying and knocking down buildings while they can also help businesses by encouraging more visitors. They can provide other important functions too – like suggested in the competition above – by helping to inform drivers they are entering into or travelling through a different location and encouraging them to slow down. Of course this doesn’t mean that they will be right for every situation or that we should replace all of our on-street carparks with them but they definitely could be a useful tool.

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62 comments

  1. “The world’s first formal public parklets were initially conceived and installed in San Francisco in 2010.”
    Perhaps that was when the name was first applied to them, but when I toured Europe in 2009 I saw these things in many cities in many countries – Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy. Often they were installed for the 2 mid-summer months (many people take an extended break around July) and removed for the rest of the year.
    Closer to home, I’ve seen this done in Taupo and Rotorua at various times.

  2. Italian cafés have been doing this lawfully or not for the last 100 years. But we know what Americans think of the rest of the world.

  3. Nice idea, I wonder who pays for this?

    In Italy use of the footpath or parking bays like that requires a licence and a fee to be paid from the operator (usually a restaurant or bar) to the commune. The charge you pay extra when you sit down is to cover this although a few years ago (at least in Rome) the commune said they were not allowed to pass on the costs. Now its normal to pay an additional fee for the ‘bread’ which covers the costs.

    There are many places in Auckland that would benefit from having outdoor cafes and being traffic free. All of Queen Street, parts of Ponsonby Road, just to name two. All the city needs to do is route the traffic into other corridors.

    1. Phil totally agree about Queen St, Ponsonby Road and think steps like this around all the town centre nodes would be a great thing. Think lets hit Auckland in one go-re-route /remark fire up the PT. Transformation done and then fix up a couple of areas to suit.Then we can focus on more of the above in terms of higher spec-parklets,walking and cycling projects. Imagine Tamaki Drive if primary cars re-routed around that-(Access to side streets only). Or we could just focus on one meniscal project at a time over the next 17 years?

      1. can’t agree about removing buses from Queen St, you have to remember that the space is for everyone, not just the café set. Not everyone is blessed with full mobility, so access to buses on and adjacent to Queen St is crucial for people with limited mobility. Not to mention that the buses at the southern end of the street serve the central isthmus, not accessible by train. It’s not a question of taking the buses out, but rather coming up with creative design solutions to address the issues that arise.

        1. A tram can serve the local access and the Isthmus buses can go down Symonds, and Along Wellesley, or down Wakefield and then across Wellesley. Either way, only a tiny amount of Queen St is needed for buses.

        2. it’s not a question of what buses do, the fundamental issue is access to and from the buses for people, not all of whom are fit and mobile, our design standard should be little old ladies with shopping trundlers, mums with prams and people using wheelchairs

          some of the comments on this blog come from young, fit people for whom walking for 20 minutes is not a problem

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the difference between a ‘parklet’ and the examples the other commenters seem to be thinking of, that a parklet repurposes carparks or roadspace as opposed to a footpath or other public area already devoid of cars?

    1. They are proposing to replace the left turn slip lane coming out of Sandringham Rd.

      I always used to ponder the value of that. About two or three cars in the straight ahead lane and you can’t get to the slip lane, likewise a couple of cars in the slip lane and you start blocking the other one.

      1. Indeed. I drive or cycle through that intersection everyday, and traffic is always backed up so that during a red phase any left hand turning vehicle will be stuck in the queue with all the straight ahead traffic. They will only get to use it once once the traffic is moving during a green phase.

        Perhaps off-peak when the queue will only be a few cars deep it saves time, but in one of the few areas of auckland that has a remotely lively high street, surely a bit more pedestrian street-scape is of greater benefit than speeding the flow of the occasional left turning car passing though.

  5. Parklets are only going to be of use to retail if they are extensions of footpaths. At the very minimum the retailer (bar/restaurant) will be crossing the footpath to their customers in the parklet so its kind of the same thing right?

    1. Crossing the footpath at least, although just for fun Wellington once had a cafe (the Chocolate Fish) which had outdoor seating on the opposite side of the road (http://goo.gl/maps/s4E0A – cafe on the left, seating by the sea on the right). I remember there being “waiters crossing” road signs, but I might be making that part up.

    2. In the San Fran Parklet Manual they state that the parklets must be open to anyone to use, Not just a businesses customers. Businesses also aren’t allowed to serve customers in a parklet so if a customer wants to have food they have to go into the store and carry it out. The only thing the business can do is to keep the tables clean.

    1. Agree. This will be a great precedent. We should be removing slip lanes every weekend. Next up K Rd and Upper Queen St.

  6. The general concept of parklets is great – as anything that humanises public space is – but context is vital.

    In this context the plan strikes me as particularly ill-thought through – no make that stupid.

    That particular location is a problematic space in that it doesn’t have the custodial gravity of a cafe or shop etc directly influencing it. The church is not an externalised space and otherwise it’s surrounded by roads.

    There’s a low rent pub on the other side of the road and beyond that halfway housing so the reality is it’s more likely to become a security problem than anything else – an overnight hotspot for vagrants.

    Because it’s on the fringe of a popular late night destination but has no logic as an area your average K-lander would congregate in – esp after hours – it’s basically like setting up party central for miscreants.

    1. I think in this case it might be that the Parklet might be used not as a place for people to sit and congregate but as a way of enhancing the neighbourhood through some more green space i.e. it could be all planting.

      1. Yep could be planting – though I see the design brief is to design a gateway demarcation and “people place”… so I kinda assumed they’re going for somewhere people would hang out. The church hall is the key here – both the problem and the solution. If the whole space was redesigned in conjunction with somehow adding pavement-connected activity to the church property – eg food kiosks, food trucks, whatever – and created a link through to Atomic and Citizen Park, then the whole corner would come alive. The church is cool but it creates a disconnect between the spaces at the moment.

        1. The church hall is actually used for craft markets at weekends, and it would be great to enhance that corner as a lot of people walk through there. However i don’t think the markets are every wknd, and would love to see this venue being used more often for community events. Perhaps the school could get involved too, as there must be kids walking between it and kingsland. removal of the sliplane is wonderful news as that intersection is not fun as a pedestrian.

        2. Are you saying that’s a bad thing or a good thing? And you’re probably right, given that it’s Kingsland 😉

    2. Yes because a slip lane and parking are so much better at creating the vibrancy you complain about the area lacking. Perhaps the reason the area has a low rent pub and an inward facing church is because of the environment as it currently stands.

    1. Well the Kingsland Business Society would look after it I imagine.

      In the San Fran (and other examples) the parklet is owned and maintained by the shop owner who installs it.

    1. There aren’t any regular bus routes using that slip lane, and other than that, the parklet is only using footpath space. So it’s not using up any space that could be significantly used by buses or bikes. The roadway is already four lanes wide + median strip/turn lane, so there’s plenty of scope to extend the bus lanes down the outside (in fact, on the city side of that intersection, the outside lanes are already bus lane).

    1. That is a more permanent pavement widening. If you look at the San Fran examples they are actually temporary structures placed over the carparking spots but made to the same curb height.

      1. @Matt L, yeah, but the Kingsland development does not appear to be temporary,certainly the design brief has no indication that the materials to be used must be temporary and removable..

  7. I’ve never really been a fan of temporary ‘developments’ (for lack of a better word) and these are no exception. Would rather just see it done properly with the slip-turn permanently removed and the streetscape given a proper upgrade…

  8. Personally, I oppose the privatisation of public footpaths for free on principle. Trying to go for a run along footpaths (usually illegally) infested with signs and all the other deitritus of freeloading businesses is hard enough now. God knows how people get on in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. The parklets might be “public” in name, but looking at the pictures they are in fact simply public space given to private businesses for free. If cafes and bars want to use the footpath, they should be charged a damned high price to do so.

    Yours,

    Grumpy resident of Kingsland.

    1. The parklets are put in the car parking space, not on the footpath. There may be issues with people walking from the parklet to the cafe but it wont take away footpath space.

    2. Making use of a carpark which in effect is already privatised as it’s used solely for the purpose of storing private cars, usually for free, is certainly not a better use than for seating that people buying food or drinks from a nearby cafe can use. Personally I’d much rather have a neighbourhood of street side cafes.

  9. Although I believe the idea is generally great, I doubt that someone want to sit and relax on that location. I am living in Kingsland, and that it is a crossing of 2 motorway like routes. It takes ages to cross one of the street, the air, in the morning particularly, is heavy polluted (you recognize it as in the morning it smells like roasted chestnuts but probably less healthy). I believe there are way better areas in Kingsland to do a parklet. But the idea itself is fantastic.

      1. Crazy place for it – polluted by constant through-traffic, disconnected from actual pedestrian routes and unsheltered. Surely best to put these things outside cafes/shops, not buildings with virtually no interaction with the street like that church hall.

    1. With better rail and more frequent bus services, and the opportunity for intensification, it could be a catalyst for a redevelopment of an important food and drink and entertainment district.

  10. I move between Auckland and San Fran where my local parklet has proven a cantankerous for the local community and governance to reconcile. Its well used, but not loved by all. Interestingly how many people I have struck up conversations with just by sharing intimate space and a few rays of sunshine or foggy morning air. Certainly an easy and engaging way to foster community. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/san-francisco-parklet_n_2428314.html
    Another couple of examples from a regular haunts: http://bettercities.net/sites/default/files/a-parklet-in-the-mission.jpg
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/parklet/help-us-build-this-parklet

    Great idea for Kingsland however the site is too large for a parklet concept and much depends upon the interaction of the immediately adjoining land holders. Parklets success are due to their opportunistic use of space and ‘bottom-up’ emergence – they bring people into situations of sharing in close proximity outside of the bounds of commercial enterprise or prescribed regulation. It appears there is no activity excluded from parklets and hence they are open to all (other than if you are nude please sit on something). Will be interesting to see what transpires in Kingsland as there certainly is a need for more space of casual exchange.

    1. Shows what can be done in 24hrs in countries with sanity, compare that with Auckland, 6 months and we’re still waiting for a measly ‘trial’ bike carrol on Ponsonby Rd. Things move at a glacial speed in NZ unless they involve a motorway or road widening and then they happen almost overnight.

  11. I’m all for creating more bike parking and green space in our city, but why do we need yet more cafes taking up space on public land?

    Cafes all over the city are already taking up huge sections of footpath in the CBD, Ponsonby, Kingsland, Grafton, Parnell, Newmarket, Onehunga, Takapuna, Remuera etc..etc…

    At the moment, all a café has to do is apply to the council for a street trading licence and they are allowed to sell their wares outside their premise…

    Sorry – but I must be missing something here…??

    1. Yeah, I think you are. Cafes pay the Council for that outdoor space, as you point out below, and my understanding is that the amount paid is not insubstantial, at least for high-demand areas like the ones you list.

  12. Whilst I agree fantastic transformations. There should be some fair/reasonable lease arrangement if used for trading purposes on public land. Money used to fund further transformation schemes perhaps?

  13. Cafes and bars already pay money to the council in the form of a street trading licence to take up large tracts of the footpath.

    If this idea is going to cause the Council to create yet another bylaw, please god, don’t let it happen…

  14. Although it may look asthetically pleasing, it is a complete waste of both time and money for very little gain. If these businesses want the extra amenity value they should pay for it not the ratepayer. Basically just a subsidy to cafe owners.

    1. “Basically just a subsidy to cafe owners.” – well so is free on street parking; so what is the difference? This is only taking away one subsidy and replacing it with another while creating a nicer urban environment. Sounds like a win to me.

      Why is there very little gain? If the cafe can seat more customers wont they make more money? Are you against free enterprise?

  15. New Plymouth has beaten Auckland to it. First parklet installed in New Zealand as part of the Lower Brougham Street upgrade in front of Marinovich’s Restaurant.

  16. Ideal place for parklets in auckland is the old city works depot.

    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=97+Nelson+Street,+Auckland,+New+Zealand&hl=en&ll=-36.850518,174.758551&spn=0.004334,0.006271&sll=-36.850423,174.759095&sspn=0.002167,0.003136&oq=97+nelson+st&t=h&hnear=97+Nelson+St,+Auckland,+1010,+New+Zealand&z=18

    Surrounded by high density housing blocks opposite across Nelson street, a number of cafe and bars have poped up in here, but the place is totally lacking atmos as the bars etc exist in a sea of car parking. If the bars were to open out onto ‘parklets’ instead, i can see them heaving on a warm summers evening with after-work-drinkers.

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