Reclaim the Streets for Summer

We’ve talked about parklets previously, and you’ve probably seen them in one form or another, as they are popping up more and more. (Learn about parklets in this post, and check out Montreal examples here.) Technically, parklets are for the public – literally, mini resting areas/green spaces that borrow the street for people instead of cars and are free to the public. However,  restaurants create their own versions of parklets in the form of outdoor seating in parking spaces – usually on wood decks at curb height. On my last visit to Montreal I noticed another one, seen below.

See the parklet across the street?

And diagonally across from the restaurant seating, I found an actual parklet. This one was quite simple: benches and planters. This set up gives people a spot to sit and gaze at the architecture, allows for more pedestrian use of the sidewalk, cafe space, and creates a more park like setting on this historic street. What do you think?

A parklet in Old Montreal.

Parklets and outdoor seating areas are reclaiming* the streets for pedestrians, which make summer even more fun (especially for those of us with long, cold winters). Choosing to cater to people rather than automobiles is an important aspect of placemaking, and it can make a big difference a city’s vitality. Seen any lately? If you have, I’d love to see them. Use #presinpink on social media (Twitter, Instagram) to share!

*Reclaiming not to be confused with road construction reclamation. Just a transportation joke for you. haha. 😉

With Your Coffee

#ihavethisthingwithfloors = one of the best internet trends lately.

#ihavethisthingwithfloors = one of the best internet trends lately. This floor is in the women’s’ bathroom at the Vermont State House. Yes, even the bathroom floor is beauitufl in that building. 

Happy weekend, friends! How are you? Hopefully Spring has sprung where you are. I can see flowers, green grass and buds in Vermont! Why am I always talking about the weather? Because I get so excited for warm weather in Burlington; I can’t help it. Today I spent the day in Montpelier with all of the Vermont preservation consultants and the Division for Historic Preservation staff at a training for preservation consultants. How fun it was to see everyone together. Side note: most of us are graduates of the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program. Also, Happy Preservation Month! I hope you have fun weekend plans, including watching the Kentucky Derby, wearing big hats, and drinking Mint Juleps. Or something equivalent. Cheers! xo.

What’s going on in your world? Any interesting news? I’d love to know!

Parklet Sighting in Montreal

What’s lovelier than sitting outside on a warm summer day for lunch or enjoying a drink and your company at the end of the day? Many restaurants, particularly in our cold northern climate, do not have permanent outdoor seating. Why? Because sitting outside is only a good idea for a few months out of the year. For the rest of the year the sidewalks and patios are cold, covered in snow and inhospitable. But, come summertime we want to take advantage of that nice weather and soak it in as much as we can.

Remember learning about parklets? It’s a conversion of parking space (temporary or permanent) into public space. Some are free for the public, outfitted with benches and plantings and designed to be meeting spaces for community members. Restaurants are catching on and creating outdoor dining areas from parking spaces – a twist on the “park” of parklets. While these are clearly affiliated with restaurants (meaning, not free for the public because you need to make a purchase), it’s still a great use of space to bring the community to the street.

These restaurants parklets are from Montreal, Quebec. While they vary in design and style, all are enclosed and encompass part of the sidewalk and parking spaces.

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A casual parklet with pink picnic tables.

This view shows the parklet platform half on the sidewalk, half in the street.

This view shows the parklet platform half on the sidewalk, half in the street.

Enclosed in, metal fence. Across the street is the Old Port of Montreal.

Enclosed in, metal fence. Across the street is the Old Port of Montreal.

Almost completely in the parking space, this parklet dresses up the scene with flower boxes and planting.

Almost completely in the parking space, this parklet dresses up the scene with flower boxes and planting. And check out the view across the street. Beautiful buildings!

A closer view of the restaurant parklet. (Side note: In the life of a preservationist, I always feel like people think I'm taking photographs of them. Nope, sorry, just the environment!)

A closer view of the restaurant parklet. (Side note: In the life of a preservationist, I always feel like people think I’m taking photographs of them. Nope, sorry, just the environment!)

What do you think of restaurant parklets? Do you want to be eating next to traffic? It’s a great use of space if your town or city has narrow sidewalks, but maybe sipping your drink and enjoying your meal is more difficult if a car is idling in traffic next to you. Yay or nay? Seen any in your neighborhood? Would you prefer a parklet for a restaurant or free for public use?

Westmount Conservatory

An answer and a follow up to the most recent Preservation Pop Quiz

In the Westmount neighborhood of Montreal, this 1927 conservatory (also called a Victorian greenhouse) sits adjacent to the Westmount Public Library. It’s open year-round to the public and is filled with plants, flowers, and water fountains.

The view inside the conservatory.

The view inside the conservatory. 

Looking up at the ceiling on a rainy day. Imagine the warm sunshine beaming through those panes!

Looking up at the ceiling on a rainy day. Imagine the warm sunshine beaming through those panes!

Pink flowers!

Pink flowers and tiled floors.

The still-operational ventilators inside the greenhouse. The wheel and shaft open the windows.

The still-operational ventilators inside the greenhouse. The wheel and shaft open the windows.

The conservatory is adjacent to the Westmount Public Library.

The conservatory is adjacent to the Westmount Public Library.

Any greenhouses by you? I’m not a plant expert, but the sight of flowers and historic buildings is enough to draw me in for a stroll through a conservatory.

An Urban Beach

What are you planning to do with your last unofficial weekend of summer? Are you spending it on the beach, on some body of water? Not everyone  lives near a beach or someplace with access to usable waterfront. Some they live in a town or area that is landlocked or perhaps in a city that has yet to reclaim its industrial era waterfront land, often land previously used for shipping industries, grain elevators, railroad yards and related structures and infrastructure.

So, imagine you live in a town or city without beach access, with a waterfront that was full of potential. What if you could construct a “beach” for residents? What if that beach had clean sand, beach umbrellas and chairs, but no place for swimming? How does that sound? The concept exists in practice and is known as an “urban beach” or a “city beach.”

The Clock Tower Beach in Montreal, Quebec is such a thing. The waterfront in the Old Port has undergone extensive revitalization and a recent development is this beach. People pay an entrance fee and have access to sand, umbrellas, chairs, misting stations, restrooms, a snack bar and great views of the St. Lawrence River and the Montreal skyline views.

Clock Tower Beach: A manmade urban beach on the river in Montreal, Quebec.

At first the concept struck me as absurd: a beach that is just sand and no swimming? What fun is that? However, it is a unique alternative to additional grassy areas of a park. It’s summer – who wouldn’t want to put their toes in the sand and get some sun next to the water, lying in the sand, as opposed to sunbathing on grass.

The beach is open June – September. I wonder what it’s use will be in the winter. Will the sand be covered? Removed? If this area is only open for a few months out of the year, is that good land use planning?

Clock Tower Beach: Looking the other direction down the St. Lawrence River (nice truss bridge, too).

There is a traditional boardwalk promenade and tree filled grassy park in the Old Port, but this new beach is one of the most unique features. How inspiring to hear of new revitalization efforts thinking outside of the box. And, Toronto already has a beach – designed by the same company. Urban beaches exist in a few places, with only one in the United States listed.  Any others?

What do you think of an urban beach?  Want to visit? Here’s more information.

Ghost Lines

When examining and analyzing buildings, preservationists love to find ghost lines (or marks) that give us clues to where there was once a window, a door, or a change in original construction. These are some very subtle hints on the surface like a change in brick pattern. They are always fun. Imagine my surprise when I saw this while visiting Montreal, Canada with some of the UVM HP students:

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This one tells quite the story. Enjoy!