P&Z board proposes adding temporary parklet features in downtown Safety Harbor
Amid all the recent discussion about boosting the economy in downtown Safety Harbor, the same solutions kept cropping up: hire an economic development director to help attract new businesses; make the district more walkable and connected; improve the perceived parking problem.
On Monday night, a new idea was proposed by the city’s Planning and Zoning board that could be categorized as thinking outside of the box.
P&Z member Andy Greenwood told the City Commission that during recent discussions to define Safety Harbor’s “small town charm”, the board learned that parklets, or temporary sidewalk extensions, have proven to attract people to downtown areas, and he proposed the commission create an ordinance allowing the features in Safety Harbor.
“What’s a parklet?” Greenwood began with the question on everyone’s mind. “It’s an extension of the sidewalk. We also look at it as a street patio or a business porch, as it were. It goes along the public rights of way where public spaces exist in an urban environment such as Main Street. It takes up the space of one to two spaces, sometimes three.”
Greenwood said parklets, which are popular on the West Coast and reportedly coming to Tampa, are designed to be semi-permanent structures that require no modifications to the existing streetscape.
He said under their proposal, the parklets would not cost the City any money other than the time taken to draft the ordinance, as they are meant to be funded by businesses in the community.
“This would be hosted or sponsored by local businesses or organizations who would design, build and maintain them,” he said.
Greenwood went on to explain how parklets could improve or enhance the downtown district, including opening the sidewalks in front of busy establishments and creating destination locations for certain businesses.
“One of the things that this would immediately do for businesses that would want to sponsor this is it would…increase their gross leasable square footage” he said, adding, “not exactly in that manner, but it would increase their ability to utilize their businesses and serve patrons and get other people to occupy the downtown area. And it also allows them to invest in their community for public use.”
Greenwood noted the spaces should be permitted for limited-use only and be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis, and he emphasized they would be designated public spaces with the sponsoring business or organization carrying proper insurance and permits for the parklets.
He estimated roughly 5-10 Main Street businesses might have interest in adding the feature, with some off-Main establishments and potentially the City and local organizations, also.
Following the presentation, the commissioners voiced several questions and concerns about the proposal, including allowing the public to access an area that is part of a private business (right of ways are public spaces by law); liability, especially when it comes to alcohol sales (businesses would have to apply for a temporary permit, with all the applicable responsibilities, for the space); taking up valuable parking spaces (Main Street is typically closed for major events, therefore parklets would not interfere with downtown parking on those occasions, according to Greenwood); and allowing outside businesses to operate out of the parklet (again, this would be handled via permitting and code enforcement).
Despite the reservations, the five commissioners voted unanimously to approve the proposal, and Mayor Joe Ayoub instructed the City Manager to draw up the parameters of an ordinance that would be brought back before the commission for approval.
After the meeting, Ayoub shared his thoughts about the parklets idea.
“This is a new concept to me so I was glad to see our P&Z board come up with some new ideas to stimulate our downtown,” the mayor said via email.
“We have more work to do with regards to working out the details but I like the general idea of it. Now we have to work with several stakeholders to see the best way to move this idea forward.”
P&Z board member Vic Curti also weighed in on the topic.
“Parklets will benefit Main Street by creating points of interest, especially along less vibrant portions of our Main Street, which will encourage more pedestrian activity and vitality,” Curti, a longtime urban planner and co-founder of Smart Growth Safety Harbor, said via text.
“They will offer another tool to businesses to draw more customers. Just as importantly, it is a symbolic gesture which trades pedestrian oriented space for vehicular, bringing attention to renewed focus on people oriented design, walkability and community building.”
What do you think, Harborites? Should parklets be allowed in the downtown district, or will they cause more parking problems? Let us know in the comments below or on the Safety Harbor Connect Facebook page.
- Commission wrestles with ways to boost economic development in Downtown Safety Harbor
- Walking audit will help assess mobility, accessibility in downtown Safety Harbor
- Mayor Ayoub wants to form an economic development task force
Just saw this item. Would love these. Was reading about something very similar called “Street Patios”. These would be great so it would give back our sidewalks so people can walk downtown again. (Kind of like Barfly moving to the corner and their old storefront sidewalks are again passable for walkers)
The way I read it…
The businesses that choose to sponsor one would have it in front of their business. If they did not sponsor it then it would still remain a parking space as it is today.
The above states that a parklet is a “temporary sidewalk extension”. If it is truly temporary, give it a try. If it works we can continue to use them , If it doesn’t work, just stop using them. No harm, no foul.
This would be the perfect opportunity to change the speed limit to 20 mph. on Main St. I miss the days when I was able to ride my bike down Main. I would love to see water features included in these parklets if possible.
I’m for it. Attractive additions to the streetscape. Having people visible naturally attracts others. Except for events there is sufficient parking downtown.
If you would like to see an actual Parklet in person, there will be a Pop Up event, including Parklet, in the Grand Central District of St Petersburg on Sunday, October 29 from 11 AM – 4 PM. Part of the Complete Streets Pop Up Event during Open Streets St Pete. The Parklet is planned to be in the 19th or 20th Street blocks of Central Avenue. https://openstreetsstpete.wordpress.com
Thanks for sharing Lisa. A parklet and Open Streets sound like another ‘Sunday Funday’ in St. Petersburg. Looking forward to it.
I like this fresh idea of another added feature to welcome more pedestrian traffic downtown.:
This might work very nicely on the Main Street side of the Harbor Pointe Complex sidewalk where green spaces are non existent.
With the proper rules regulations and enforcement these may be a good addition to Main Street. I’m concerned about the maintenance and appearance of them, left to the personal opinion of the business owners. Decorating and visual appeal is in the eye of the beholder. Doesn’t take too much of an imagination to think how some could become eyesores instead of attractions. I applaud bringing new ideas to our community, and respect that our leaders will put in place the necessary regulations.
Anything that makes the city more appealing is a good idea. People love to be outdoors. Adding to the “cafe” feeling on the streets will bring more people. We walk early in the morning and Starbucks tables are filled inside and out. A few designated as free WiFi spots might be helpful. Just a great idea all around!
I think this is a wonderful idea. Parklets are hip. 🙂 I think it would be ideal to pick a design with some shade to ensure high usage.
Interesting idea. I have a few questions…
– Who would decide where the parklets are located?
– Who would the sponsorship funds go to? The city?
– Who would manage the sponsorship and decide who gets first dibs on a spot?
– If a parket was designated in front of an existing business, would that business have the first opportunity to sponsor the parklet?
– What types of organizations could operate in parklets? Could a business sponsor a parklet and sell food and drinks?
– Should existing businesses be concerned about a competitor setting up shop in a parklet in front of their store/restaurant? If so, I could see some existing businesses feeling like they were forced to sponsor a parklet in front of their shop to prevent a competitor from sponsoring it.
– In other cities that have parklets are they mostly an extension of the businesses they are in front of? Or are they mostly independent mini-businesses – like kiosks in the middle of mall walkways?
Creating a parklet in front 4-5 restaurants along main would create more of a cafe style street scene like there is in downtown St. Pete. Giving up 4-5 parking spaces for that positive type of greenery space would have little impact on parking.
So happy to see this iteration of the P&Z board proactively offering ways to make our Main Street an active, thriving area where I can meet many of my daily needs.
It’s been many years since P&Z has focused on downtown.
I like Tom Tracy’s remark. Also, we don’t have enough parking on Main St. as it is to take away more spaces. Sitting that close to traffic would scare me. Even the benches that are already facing the side streets are scary to sit upon when you see the faces of people turning the corner while driving.
Actually Stacy, I did a week long parking study of Main Street parking, counting the cars periodically throughout each day. The average parking occupancy for the week Sunday to Sunday was 56%. Plenty of excess for a few parklets. The highest count I found still left 25 open spots on Main.
Sorry meant Sally.
I really like this idea. You don’t have to be at any certain restaurant to take advantage of sitting, having a coffee, reading or just taking a break from a bike ride. I think aesthetically it is very eye pleasing and adds color and charm with plantings and flowers. I feel that most people drive relatively slow through downtown and the side roads so I don’t think there would be any danger where motor vehicles are concerned.
I like the idea of outside/patio space for patrons to sit, talk eat, or drink but have concerns about parking and safety with our narrow streets. People would be sitting almost in the traffic lanes. Not in favor of using this area for displays or merchandise.
Do these take up parking spaces? I can see them used during craft shows and third Fri.