Small, Public Spaces: Parklets

Many of our New England towns and villages have limited street and sidewalk space when you take into account two lanes of travel, parking spaces and/or lanes, sidewalks and even snow piles. A cafe with outdoor seating is lovely in the warm weather, but only feasible when there is enough space for seating and for pedestrians on the sidewalk. A typical sidewalk, five feet in width, is not going to be sufficient for all our desires. And even then, do we really want to sit outside if a car is going to park next to our lunch seats? Maybe not. And what about benches (street furniture), trash/recycling bins and landscaping? In a nation that mostly caters to automobiles and convenience, roadways and parking spots often call the shots.

How can we add some green space and public space to our villages and cities with narrow sidewalks? Perhaps old news to some, a concept called a “parklet” is called the next big thing by Governing magazine. The article in the June 2012 issue, “Parklet: The Next Big Tiny Idea in Urban Planning,” explores the concept and prototypes of parklets. What is a parklet? Simply put, a parklet is the conversion (temporary or permanent) of a parking space or a few sparking spaces into a mini-park. Parklets can be furnished with outdoor benches, tables & chairs, umbrellas, landscaping in movable planters and similar items. They are designated for public use, meaning cafes and restaurants cannot serve to these park lets, and people are free to come and go as they please. Check out the slideshow with the Parklet article for great parklet designs.

Parklets began in 2009 in San Francisco, CA by the Bicycle Coalition and continues to be supported through the San Francisco Great Streets Project. The website is full of information including transformative before and after photos, from parking space to parklet. See also the How-to-Guide.  According to the Governing article, businesses often fund the park lets, but cities will sometimes share costs. Each parklet costs around $15,000 – $20,000. In terms of infrastructure, that is a small investment for long term positive effects to a community. As far as winter season, parklets can be disassembled and stored until warm weather returns.

So, what do you think? Does your town or city desperately need more green space and seating space? I can think of many towns that would benefit from a more interactive street, yet do not have the sidewalk space. Real estate, whether for streets or buildings, comes at a high premium in our compact villages. Using space wisely is a fine art. And typically, parking spaces are not something that municipalities are willing to lose. But what if just one parking space could be a parklet outside your local eatery or civic building? People could pause in the parklet, gather or meet there, get a cup of coffee to go from elsewhere and enjoy it in that space.

A parklet isn’t going to replace your town park, but it can get people to linger longer in the business district and to enjoy the surroundings. When was the last time you stood and looked up at the second or third story of a building? Imagine sitting on a bench in a parklet and gazing at the cornice on a historic building. Or – okay – people watching if that’s more your thing.  And the storefront aesthetics will be improved by the change from automobile to parklet fronting the building.

Some questions that need to be answered: how will the pedestrians in the parklet be protected from traffic? How long will the parklet stay? Who will fund it? However, next time you are walking through your town’s business district: look around. Where can you imagine a parklet?

What do you think? Good idea in theory, in practice, or both? An idea here to stay or just a trend? Do you know of similar ideas?

Preservation Photos #135

An interior room in the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Ludlow, VT. It is a National Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Hotel of America.

Answer to Preservation Pop Quiz

The most recent Preservation Pop Quiz asked you to describe the brickwork seen here:

The reason for this quiz was mostly because I didn’t know the answer, and wanted some good preservation colleague input. If you read the comments, you’ll notice that there was a good discussion occurring, with good sources shared. Hopefully everyone learned something new and enjoyed participating and/or reading.

Now, I’m not about to declare myself an expert and give you the “proper” description. But I will go over the brick courses above, based on information gathered from the comments. Feel free to chime in with your opinions. Since Paula wrote the National Register nomination, I’ll defer to her for approval.

The top 10 (or 11 – the picture is difficult to count) rows of brick are “corbeled brick courses.”

The rows with recessed bricks are “stylized, repeating cross shaped recesses in the brick bond.”

The next course below (the brick headers set at a 45 degree angle) are set in a “houndstooth pattern” or “sawtooth pattern.”  (Anyone know the difference or are they interchangeable?) 

The tall bricks are in a soldier bond (referring to those angled to show soldiers and sailors) are set in a sawtooth pattern, as well.

So, yes, this is a complicated brick cornice filled with detailed brickwork. Ten corbeled courses, a recessed cross-shape pattern in the brick, a course of headers set in houndstooth/sawtooth pattern, and a course of soldiers set in the same pattern.

What do you think now?  Good, or shall we refine it more?

Vermont Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference 2012

Friday June 8 was the much anticipated Vermont Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference, held in Wilmington, VT. Wilmington was one of the Vermont towns most damaged from the flooding of Tropical Storm Irene on August 28, 2011, and the theme of the conference “Resiliency” fit Wilmington perfectly. Wilmington is a beautiful Vermont village, filled with an array of historic architecture, concrete bridges, local retail, eateries and lodging among residential, civic and religious buildings.

Wilmington: Where Amazing Happens. Seen at morning registration.

Luckily, the day was graced with beautiful Vermont weather: blue skies, white clouds, warm sunshine and green mountains in the background. The morning began with registration followed by the welcome, keynote speaker and preservation awards in Memorial Hall. How wonderful it is to see so many preservation-loving people in one place and to hear inspiring stories. The keynote speaker, Stuart Comstock-Gay of the Vermont Community Foundation, gave an excellent speech, acknowledging the hard work that has defined Vermonters (particularly since Irene), but also the fact that we have to keep going and keep up our motivation and momentum. Before the afternoon sessions began, everyone broke for lunch and enjoyed the local places in town.

Preservation in Pink (Flamingos): How Historic Preservation Relates to You, was slotted in the first afternoon session, 1:30-2:30, and held in the St. Mary’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church. My attention throughout the conference was focused on this presentation and not taking photographs, which is my explanation for the lack of images. (Sorry!)

Preservation in Pink set up in the church!

Opening slide for Preservation in Pink (Flamingos)

To all who attended the PiP session, thank you! I had the best time presenting, sharing the Preservation in Pink story with you and talking about how historic preservation and our built environment relate to each other. How nice it was to meet readers and those new to Preservation in Pink. This was the debut of PiP outside of the blog and newsletter, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience. I hope the attendees enjoyed themselves as well. And thank you for laughing when I unknowingly said “preaching to the choir.” I did not plan it! Of course, thank you to the Preservation Trust of Vermont for inviting me to speak.

During the presentation. Photo sent by reader and Vermont author Beth Kanell. Thank you Beth!

The conference continued with a second round of afternoon sessions and then an afternoon barbecue held at North Star Bowl on Route 100. This locally owned business suffered greatly from the flood, but with a dedicated community behind it, recovered and rebuilt. Wilmington is full of inspiring people, from residents to business owners to second home-owners. They have come a long way since the August flooding, but still have a long way to go. If you are traveling on Route 9 or Route 100, stop in for a visit. Hope to see you next year!

PiP On the Road

Preservation in Pink is heading south to Wilmington, VT for the historic preservation and downtown conference.
Hope to see you there!

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In the meantime, check twitter or facebook for PiP updates and photos. PiP will give this social media a test run.

Preservation Photos #134

St. Albans Drive-in Movie Theater.

It’s drive-in movie season, and the perfect time to get out and explore roadside America off the interstates. See more of the St. Albans Drive-in in this post (playground included).

*Note: no special effects were added to this image. Vermont was simply that beautiful that day. 

p.s. Preservation Pop Quiz brick answer coming up soon. Anyone else have thoughts on it?

Abandoned Vermont: Sudbury House

Located in Sudbury, Vermont, this house is barely noticeable if you aren’t looking for it. It sits on a hill with a beautiful view.

On the hill.

Located in Sudbury, Vermont.

The paint on the side elevations has weathered much faster than that on the front facade. You can see clearly in this image that the ell had other additions (probably covered bays for equipment or vehicle storage).

That porch is barely hanging on to the house; its posts are scattered elsewhere. You can also see the wood windows and wood storms intact.

Front porch detail. These Italiante porches would have been added later, probably at the same time the windows and doors were replaced.

View to the main block from the ell. Note the different window styes.

Window on the ell with a 12/12 sash, and working shutters. These are seen on the rear elevations – they were replaced by the 2/2 sashes on the more visible sides, which was common practice.

View looking through the sidelights from the porch. From the looks of it, at least some of this house has been modernized and perhaps not abandoned for too long.

Though in need of repair, this one strikes me as an abandoned house (or neglected house) that stands a chance if someone acts soon. What potential! Do you have any information about the status of this house?