The concept of turning urban parking spaces into social parklets is gaining popularity in several cities worldwide. Parklets are usually made up of a few car park spots and are owned and managed by local government, businesses or individuals who turn them into urban public parks.
Many major cities in Australia recently participated in worldwide Park(ing) Day, which delegated a number of urban car parking stalls to be used for urban parks for the one-day event.
In South Australia, Adelaide City Council has said parklets are here to stay. In March, the council began a long term parklet pilot project which has proven successful and there was also an increased interest in the city’s involvement with Park(ing) Day last month.
Adelaide’s council is currently working with three businesses which have been selected to install a parklet in the city. The businesses are working on the final designs of their proposals and will be responsible for the parklets' installation, maintenance, fees and activities.
Parklets allows social creativity and alternative usage of parking spaces in city areas. Some popular parklet ideas include small parks with reading and seating areas, gardens, bike racks and outdoor eating areas. Some parklets have seating while others emphasize nature and replicate natural landscapes.
Regardless of what they contain, the public reaction has been positive. City officials are using parklets as a systematic tool for neighbourhood revival in a time when city space is at a premium.
They are considered a beneficial social platform for casual meetings and communication.
In the US, parklets have been successfully implemented in cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York.
Canadian cities such as Vancouver are also increasing the number of parklets in urban areas. Canadian scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki says cities need to be returned to pedestrians.
“Cities should be places to serve people, not to serve vehicles,” he noted. “We squeeze people around cities like made, in order to make space for cars. These streets are for people, get rid of cars!”
The tiny public parks are being implemented in urban areas around the world in areas where paved roads, concrete sidewalks and dense highrise buildings leave little space to sit and relax. Parklets effectively foster pedestrian life while promoting creativity, the arts and sustainable building practices.
On top of the benefits of creating a community feel and increasing urban social spaces, parklets encourage residents and visitors to linger in downtown areas having a positive impact on economic development by encouraging people to frequent the local businesses.
As cities become denser, it could create a further increase in demand for public spaces such as parklets to support a mix of downtown activities.
Parklets are another modern example of how the public and city planners are attempting to change the way streets are used, encouraging a return to built spaces for pedestrian use.