Meet the New Kid on the Block – Spring Street Parklets
By Forrest Rose, Project Manager, Transportation & Sustainability, Midtown Alliance
Midtown Alliance kicked-off construction of two new parklets on the west side of Spring Street between 8th Street and Peachtree Place. Sounds like good news, right, but what exactly is a parklet?
Parklets originated back in 2005 when several urbanists installed an intervention in a rented parking space on a drab street in downtown San Francisco. In true DIY fashion, they rolled out living grass, installed a bench, placed a potted tree, and voilà — a space typically reserved for a parked car was transformed into outdoor space for people. This simple gesture inspired a global movement that became known as Park(ing) Day, where groups in cities around the world repurpose parking spots into green space for a day.
This concept gained new momentum in 2020, when cities saw parklets as a viable response to help restaurants survive social distancing mandates and mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Parklets evolved into “Streeteries” and began appearing in cities across the country, becoming so popular that many are now permanent.
In 2021, the City of Atlanta implemented a parklet program to support public health guidelines for local restaurants while also creating vibrant streets. The program provided resources for operators to repurpose on-street parking spaces into outdoor seating areas in accordance with the City’s Outdoor Dining legislation and permit process. Through this program, food and beverage establishments received cost-efficient parklets at no cost to them.
As parklets have become commonplace you’ve probably seen one, or even met a friend to enjoy a meal in one. As an idea, they are quite simple – a temporary or permanent expansion of sidewalk space into adjacent on-street parking—typically midblock. Yet they are considered by some to be the gateway drug of urban transformation.
In the case of Spring Street, 10 parking spaces on the west side were rendered inaccessible when the City of Atlanta implemented the protected bike lane last year. This created an opportunity for Midtown Alliance to engage with adjacent business owners and the community to generate ideas about how these obsolete spaces could be reimagined. Flexible seating, shade, art, games, and parking for bikes and scooters were among the most requested enhancements.
Working with TSW on the design and Whiting-Turner as the contractor, Midtown Alliance will deliver expanded areas for people to dine, work, relax and people-watch along the busy block anchored by student housing and popular establishments such as Twisted Kitchen, Taco Bell, Insomnia Cookies, Tropical Smoothie Café, and Super Cuts. Midtown Green will oversee operations and maintenance of the parklets, and Midtown Alliance staff will schedule programming such as live music and improv that is free of charge and welcome for all to enjoy. Construction of the parklets is anticipated to be complete by mid-June. See you there!