You've probably seen people hanging out in the street on risers outside the Montana Bar at 1506 East Olive Way or on the grassy slope outside Molly Moon’s at 1622 1/2 North 45th St. They’re microparks, or (former) on-street parking spots that have been repurposed for pedestrians. Now it's your turn to get people into the street.

A parklet can be anything from a patch of greenery and outdoor seating, to a spot for outdoor air hockey. SDOT is currently accepting applications for new parklets–and anyone can apply.

“As the city fills in and grows, there’s an increased need for accessible enjoyable public open space,” SDOT public realm specialist Seth Geiser told me. “SDOT, as the city’s largest land owner, wants to take pieces of the right of way that aren’t being well utilized and allow people to invigorate them with these public space projects.”

SDOT debuted its parklet pilot project in 2013 (and PubliCola has been obsessed with them ever since—getting mad when a business owner put the kabosh on one  in the Central District and even doing our own temporary SwaPark on SDOT's annual Park(ing) Day.) 

As of last month, SDOT announced they’re here to stay. So far there are six parklets on the ground, and SDOT hopes to add dozens more to the city’s streetscape, extending the application deadline to March 30 so that folks can have time to get their logistics squared away; several applicants asked for more time and the city, also eager to get more applicants, simply extended the deadline.

Making a commitment to build, fund, and maintain a public structure sounds stressful. And you have to get people to buy into your idea? It makes you want to cheat on your application, doesn’t it?

We talked to SDOT and got the scoop on some hacks for parklet applicants:

 • Good parklets don’t just enhance the urban landscape–they riff of it

 “The best applications are where you can locate in a space where it would fit, places where folks want to naturally congregate, places that have unique characteristics where parklet can speak to the activity of the organization and reflect the character of the place it is,” Geiser said, citing the Queen Anne Uptown Parklet as a prime example. That particular parklet is located in front of the SIFF Cinema Uptown and includes arty film reels in the design and seating to nosh on popcorn.  

 • Consider a “streatery” for your cafe

 The application is also open for businesses that want to open “streateries,” which allow restaurants, bars, and cafes to directly serve customers in parklets. It certainly raises an interesting dilemma, seeing as parklets are in theory “public spaces” that shouldn’t require a purchase to enjoy. But Geiser told me that patrons immediately use a number of the existing parklets outside of businesses to enjoy their latte and snack purchases anyway. 

“Lots of businesses have made requests for streateries, since traditional parklets don’t allow them to have direct table service like we do with the sidewalk café program,” Geiser said. “Streateries take the benefits of sidewalk cafe program and overlays them with parklets.”

• Start knocking on your neighbors’ doors

To qualify for a parklet, applicants need to make a year-long commitment, as well as accumulate funding and community support for the project. You could go it alone, but Geiser recommends backing by a business or community group.

“We’ve had some projects cost upwards of $30,000 while some get creative with donated services and materials and keep it under $10,000; some go all out and get designed by big firm architects and others get a little more scrappy and innovative,” Geiser added.

According to SDOT, parklets are financed strictly by private money. Hosts are to pay for design, materials, construction, and maintenance costs, as well as review and permit fees (around $1,000 for the first year). For streatery business hosts, they need to pay $1.56 per square foot each year because they’re making money using the right-of-way. And, streateries also pay if they’re in areas with paid parking to make up for lost parking revenue, about $3,000 per space.

• Don’t just suggest “that one block on Capitol Hill”

SDOT is also paying close attention to how spaced out approved parklets are, which means our favorite neighborhoods aren’t going to turn into “parklet districts” overnight. Parklets need to be communally approved, designed, enjoyed, and maintained, after all, which is great news to anyone who felt like sidewalk mini golf or beanbag tosses were only a pipe dream. 

 

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