One parklet doesn’t work, but others go up near restaurants

ahobbs@theolympian.comMay 1, 2014 

Shortly after a new “parklet” opened recently on Cherry Street in downtown Olympia, another one was dismantled a few blocks away.

Parklets replace parking spots with outdoor covered patio seating. The city has partnered with local businesses to build parklets outside Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. on Cherry Street, Jake’s bar on Fourth Avenue and Darby’s Café on Fifth Avenue. The latter two parklets were installed in the summer of 2012.

Last weekend, the owners of Jake’s removed a parklet that took up two street parking spaces in front of the business. The space is now open to parking again.

During the day, customers regularly sat at the tables in front of the bar’s walk-up hot dog counter. However, the western end of the parklet was difficult for bar staff and Olympia police to monitor at night, said Brian Wilson, the city’s downtown liaison. Owner Rob Cameron, who paid for the parklet’s removal, had previously told The Olympian that the spot attracted troublemakers at night. Cameron could not be reached for further comment.

The parklet idea first gained popularity in San Francisco, which started the program as a way to reduce the amount of underutilized space on wide streets and public rights of way. Wilson said the parklet at Jake’s has taught the city, through trial and error, what works as far as design and sightlines. Wilson said he has fielded calls from other cities that are interested in Olympia’s approach to parklets and was invited by the University of Washington Tacoma to speak about the concept at a forum in August.

“Blocks change and usage of public space changes over the years,” said Wilson about the Jake’s parklet, adding that the concept is best suited for businesses such as coffee shops and restaurants. “I don’t really see (the loss of a parklet) as a failure at all.”

The city’s Parking and Business Improvement Area contributed grants of $3,500 toward each parklet.

On a side note, more aesthetic changes are coming this year to the 300 block of Fourth Avenue, including alleyway lighting and a new mural on the old Griswold Office Supply building across the street from Jake’s.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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