Parklets are Gaining Traction in Parking Spaces

Parklet Boulevard Wood Deck Panels with Rune Bench

Parklet Boulevard Wood Deck Panels with Rune Bench

University City District – a nonprofit neighborhood development organization in Philadelphia recently released a study quantifying the impact of Parklets in Philadelphia neighborhoods. A parklet converts an on-street car parking space or under utilized public space into a small park usually with tables, chairs and other site amenities. The report’s data provides a snapshot of six Parklets located in Philadelphia during 2013. The study may be found at The Case for Parklets

The study reports the following – 1) Parklets located near the right types of businesses will bring neighborhoods together. Two critical components for a successful parklet – a business with interior seating and a high turnover rate and large windows that connects a business interior with the parklet. 2) Parklets attract an even mix of men and women. 3) Businesses experienced a 20% increase in sales in the two weeks following installation of the parklet. And 20 to 30% of the users were not customers of the adjacent businesses. 4) The primary parklet activities consisted of eating or drinking and talking with others. Other activities included reading, communicating via telephone or other devices, playing and just hanging out.

If parklets have been on your radar for implementation but you’ve been turned off by the high cost associated with constructing custom parklets, take another look. But this time, consider standard off -the shelf parklet components and save yourself 30% to 60% of the cost associated with custom units.

Transforming the height of street level parking spaces into sidewalk height space is simple using Versipave and Spirapave deck support pedestals. The pedestals are available in a variety of adjustable heights from ¼” t0 48”. Parklet surfaces may be constructed with Boulevard Upscale Urban Wood tile squares or planks.

Create outside edge safety walls with freestanding fiberglass planters that work within the platform grid module. Add privacy screens to the planter with planter supported trelliage panels. Select café style seating and tables in both folding and portable models to round out the eating and conversational seating.

For those seeking group type activities or additional public engagement with the parklet space, outdoor table tennis, large scale chess and checkers or outdoor foosball tables can create activity zones. And for those seeking more protection against slow moving traffic, large planters and concrete bollards are the answer. Should converting a few parking spaces near parklets into bike parking spaces for the bicycling community seem like a sensible idea, temporary and seasonal bike parking corrals are a no brainer.

Off the shelf parklets are simple to design and install. The design and implementation window is short since almost all of the parklet items are off the self and available with short delivery times. There’s no compromising on design flexibility and the cost for off the shelf parkets are a fraction of the cost associated with custom parklets. Visit the streetscapes catalog for more ideas

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Ideas To Transform Public Spaces

Urban Table Tennis

Urban Table Tennis

Transform an unattractive public or private deck, patio, plaza or community area into an engaging public space. It’s easy with good tools.

Start by creating visual interest with different size flower pots or planters. Rather than stringing individual planters one by one in a target area, create flower pot groups. The groups can consists of a variety of sizes or a combination of sizes and heights. Flower bowls placed near entrance areas can create an inviting invitation to enter. Spaced along the border of large spaces, flower bowls can provide splashes of color. Flower box trellis panels positioned along the edge of busy sidewalks can create privacy and soften the surround sounds. Gigantic planters filled with trees create shade. Keep the planters and trees alive with self watering irrigation added to each flower pots.

Next, add places for resting, relaxation and collaboration. You can create formal and informational public seating area with traditional and urban benches, folding chairs and tables or stationary tables and benches. Vibrant colors and unusual shapes will attract attention and generate interest. Portable folding chairs and tables will provide users with both the flexibility and freedom to move the seating to areas where they feel most comfortable.

Shade is an important element in creating an engaging public space. Areas with too much sun and not enough shade are usually vacant spaces. If shade is an issue, consider the use of large surface mounted side post mounted umbrellas to limit the sun’s impact. The side post mounted umbrellas rotate to maximize shade during the day. Their size – eight to thirteen feet – minimizes the number of umbrellas needed to cover large areas. The umbrellas, surface mounted to concrete keeps them in place.

It’s also important that public spaces be free of litter and trash which suggest that trash cans and/or recycling centers be included in any public space transformation. The trash can and recycling centers may be individual cans or dual purpose trash and recycle units.

Finally, sometimes despite your best intentions, some public spaces require a catalyst. Games and activities that encourage group participation like table tennis, giant chess and checker sets or similar games just might fill that bill. Transforming unattractive public spaces into engaging activity zones can be easy with interesting public furniture.

Posted in Chair, Flower Pots, Flowerpot, Litter Receptacles, pedestrian amenities, Planters, Public Amenities, Public Spaces, Rubbish Bins, Seating, Street Furniture, Streetscape, Uncategorized, Urban | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ideas To Transform Public Spaces

Better Block Toolbox Idea


A couple of Sunday’s ago we moved our clocks ahead to coincide with the day light savings calendar. Daylight savings of course signals that spring is just around the corner. In many parts of the country, there has been record breaking snowfalls keeping us wrapped up woolen shirts and socks with down jackets, ear covering hats and thick winter gloves. Most of us can’t wait to receive the warm and sunny days of spring.

In the spring, we throw off our winter attire and everyone comes out to play. There will be street fairs, music festivals, farmers markets and food trucks to create temporary neighborhood destinations. These activities are great but if a neighborhood in your city is struggling to maintain a neighborhood retail destination or main street businesses are struggling to stay alive, you’re in need of grass roots economic development intervention. The best grass roots neighborhood intervention program around is “Better Block.” Jason Roberts and his organization in Dallas along with other similar organizations around the country have organized Better Block events that have transformed neighborhoods into bustling centers of neighborhood activity and economic development.

Better Block events can channel neighbors and neighborhood activists with a vision into a cohesive team with common goals and objectives. The outcomes which can transform a neighborhood and become a catalyst for future neighborhood investment. Better Blocks are a lot of work and are labor intensive. I’ve often wondered if there are ways to reduce the amount of labor that they take and whether they could impact more than one neighborhood at a time with the help of city agencies, a city hall champion or public space consultants.

An enormous amount of time is spent resourcing items for Better Blocks – planters, tables and chairs, benches, bike corrals, etc. Could Better Blocks be organized in shorter time periods and become less labor intensive if a street furniture tool box were available for that specific purpose. A Better Block tool box might include street furniture, but also multi-generational games and activities, outdoor exercise equipment to emphasize healthy communities and even Fido agility activities.

A second thought involves combing pop up stores and restaurants with a Better Block street furniture and activities tool box that could rotate thru several neighborhoods over a short period of time. The idea being that each neighborhood or target area would creates a unique Better Block event to showcase it’s unique identity, culture or community brand and generate competition culminating in the neighborhood transformation

For example, a Better Block event in neighborhood 1 this week might combine pop up stores and food trucks or restaurants with a Better Block street furniture and activities tool box and a focus on art and craft. The following week, Neighborhood 2 combines the Better Block Tool Box, food trucks with a beer garden with focus on music. The following week neighborhood 3 combines the Better Block Tool Box, pop-up breakfast restaurants and outdoor fitness activities, etc.

Such a program if planned properly would also have a side benefit of allowing citizens, planning, public works, economic development and city officials an opportunity to experience a conceptual idea plan prior to full implementation. Additionally, valuable feedback could be gained that would minimize expensive failures.

What do you think? Is the street furniture and game and activities tool box is a good idea? Who might use it? Would a city department or consultant be willing to allocate money for such a tool to assist them in demonstrating an idea(s)? Could a planning or economic development department utilize the rotating better block event idea with pop-up stores, food trucks, restaurants and a street furniture tool box to generate competition between neighborhoods or to compress the time required to generate neighborhood plans? Would there be any advantage to conducting multiple better blocks events in different neighborhoods within a single city?

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Flower Pot Watering Solution Idea

Measuring Planter for Self Watering Irrigation

Measuring Planter for Self Watering Irrigation

Decks, patios and plazas have unique problems when it comes to keeping planters and flower pots watered during the growing season. Planter pots and plant containers in those locations may have been a last minute addition. Without plumbing in place to water them on a regular basis, the planters are at the mercy of someone willing to water them. In many cases, watering the planters are a hit and miss proposition. Some property owners choose to pay a landscape contractor to handle that duty because beautiful planters add value to their properties.

I’ve had that same issue for years with our backyard patio. Our patio faces south so it gets plenty of sun. Initially, I thought no problem. When I go for a walk in the mornings, I’ll conclude my walk by watering the planters. Well, I’ve tried that for a couple of years now and I can tell you the flowers in my planters haven’t survived an entire summer. Recently, I was thinking about this issue in advance of planting new flowers in the pots. Then all of
a sudden it hit me, use the self watering planter irrigation system that you offer to property managers and landscape contractors. Duhh!

The self watering planter irrigation systems are available to accommodate both specific pot shapes and sizes and they’re available as modular units to handle large and unusual shapes. The irrigation system contains a water reservoir and a moisture detection device. Fill the reservoir with water and the moisture detection device detects a lack of moisture in the soil and releases water from the bottom of the planter. When water reaches the moisture detection device, the water flow is halted until the moisture detection device lacks moisture again. Best of all the reservoir water only needs to the filled with water once every couple of weeks. The system can be used in new flowerpots or retrofitted into existing pots prior to the addition of new plants.

So that’s how I’m going to keep the flowers in my planters alive this summer.

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Type Rider – Main Street Bike Parking

Play Type Ride Bike Parking Rack

Play Type Ride Bike Parking Rack

The typewriter is considered to be a relic of the past. For those of you too young to remember – the typewriter was machine that was used as far back as 1714 to impress or transcribe letters. By striking keys representing alphabet characters and symbols, one could write letters, correspond with others or create volumes of books. Word processors and computers have replaced typewriters.

The spirit of the typewriter, however, lives on in the form of “Type Rider” – a play on words of course, but a fun, funky and fabulous new bike rack. Type Rider is a series of bike racks designed to mimic characters, symbols or hashtags. Like a typewriter used to create words and documents, the Type Rider bike racks may be used to same effect. Use the bike racks to spell the name of a company or business or describe what that business does. Interested in getting the word out on social media, create a visual #hashtag using Type Rider bike racks.

Go bold with bold Type Rider’s colors and a message for Main Street bike parking!

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Window Box Planter, Window Flower Box or Rectangular Flower Pots


Did you know that flower boxes are also known as window boxes, window flower box or window box planters? This would also seem to imply that there is no distinction between rectangular and square planters. The rectangular flower pots it would seem are probably the most popular type of planters followed by round planters. Rectangular planters can be used to create boundaries, borders and walls. They can be placed on window sills, hung on patio rails and fences and placed in windows. Attached to walls or places on ledges, rectangular planters are great for tight spaces.

Trelliage grid attached to rectangular planters can be used to create freestanding privacy screens to shield restaurant patios from sidewalk traffic or create buffer screens between multi-family apartment units. They’re also a great way to display a collection
of beautiful trailing plants and can be used to soften the sound in hard surface environments.

Current material used to fabricate rectangular flowerboxes include concrete, fiberglass, gfrc – glass fiber reinforced concrete , thermoplastic and wood. Recent product advancements have included the ability to wrap a rectangular or square fiberglass flower pot liner with U.S. fabricated Boulevard Upscaled FSC certified wood in oak or ash. This process allows for the wood to be placed on one, two, three or four sides of the planters depending on how the planter interact with other components of the project. This flexibility can generate significant cost saving on a project that is being value engineered or provide a the look and feel of wood at a fraction of the cost. Wood planter usually last about 3-5 years, but the Boulevard Upscaled FSC certified wood is projected last up to 20 years.

seacrest-rectangle fiberglass-flower-pot

Thermoplastic rectangular planters are also worth bringing into the discussion about rectangular planter. Thermoplastic makes it possible to create double walled planters with self watering irrigation features. The self watering feature is a favorite option for property owners and manager concerned about the cost or ability to have planter watered daily or interested in reducing their overhead labor cost associated with maintaining planters. The Seacrest planters are a good example of self-watering planters.

Whether you call rectangular flower pots, window box planters, window flower boxes or rectangular flowerboxes, it doesn’t matter. It all about the atmosphere they create when
filled with flowers.

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Spring Flower Pot Ideas

Round Concrete Flower Pot

Round Concrete Flower Pot

Yes, Punxsutawney Phil and his brethren’s saw their shadows a couple of weeks ago
and yes, winter storms have pummeled the U.S. But eventually the sun will shine, temperatures will rise and another spring growing season will begin. However, if you’re planning vibrant and brilliant summer colors on the balcony, deck and patio, in a roof top garden or as a street furniture element, this is the time to select flower bowls, flower pots, flower boxes or planters. Beat the last minute late spring factory ordered flower pot rush by planning now.

During the planning process, you’ll find plenty of outdoor planters to consider. In the market place, you’ll find cast stone, concrete, fiberglass; gfrc or glass fiber reinforced concrete, thermoplastic and wood flowerpots. In addition, there are self-watering planters which make excellent rooftop gardening flower beds or raised food beds and custom designed planters for those unique projects required something different. If you’re planning a roof garden, an intensive green roof or a apartment balcony garden, you might consider fiberglass flowerpots. They’re lightweight. GFRC planters on the other hand provide the look and texture of concrete but weigh about 60% less than concrete planters. If cost is an issue, thermoplastic plant containers made with thermoplastic might be a good option.

Most flower planters are available in a variety of surface textures and coating options including metal matched paint – think bright and shiny automotive colors or metal infused color to provide subdued finishes like bronze, silver or patina. Color matching of popular colors from major paint manufacturers are also generally available.

As you might guess, planter are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. The common planters shapes are bowls, rectangles rounds and squares although recently new planters are taking on geometric and practical application shapes. Round planter sizes too have grown from small household sizes to giant tree sized planter. Rectangle planters have also grown in planter length and height.

One additional feature to consider this spring for summer long plant color and vibrancy are a self watering or sub irrigated planter irrigation system. Placed inside your new or existing planters and filled with water once every two or three weeks, they’ll keep your plant alive and healthy for the entire summer. Self watering irrigation systems are available for almost any planter size and shape. Need helping determining which self watering planter irrigation system to use with your existing flower pots, send an email to info at Streetscapes dot biz.

Don’t let Punxsutawney Phil and his brethren delay your spring planter planning process. Make your planter selection soon for timely delivery of outdoor planters

Posted in Greenroof, Healthcare, Healthy Communities, Public Amenities, Public Spaces, Roof Garden, Roof Top Garden, Street Furniture, Streetscapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Spring Flower Pot Ideas

Authentic Urban Public Seating

Seaside Urban Public Seating

Seaside Urban Public Seating

Until recently, public seating in most large cities tended to be battle tested heavy-duty benches that were selected to withstand the test of time. You no doubt have seen those benches in almost every town that you’ve ever visited. You can’t miss them. They’re fairly generic looking and they’re at bus stops, positioned in streetscape right of ways, along multi-purpose parks trails; in town squares and many other places that require benches or public seating. Yes, you’ve seen them. They’re typically painted green or black and are usually located in combination with matching trash receptacles or recycling stations, and sometimes with bike racks and bollards. They’re practical and functional but are not very creative and sometimes very uncomfortable.

Fast forward to 2014 where the conversation around public spaces now involve authenticity, creating destinations, establishing distinctive community brands, celebrating art and activating public spaces. The old standard in evolving into authentic urban public seating that celebrates distinctiveness, new public sensibilities and the many ways that we choose to engage in public spaces. The old standard involved (1) a straight bench made of metal or wood, (2) with or without a back, and (3) embedded or attached in a permanent location.

The evolving public seating standards now include a wide array of organic or unusual shapes and sizes designed for many other uses besides resting or daytime sitting or waiting. There are small seating units designed as private public seating rather than welcome one – welcome all group seating. Movie night in the park or in the neighborhood takes on a different feel with a multi-level theatre bench. The generic bench takes on a different character as the retro seaside bench.

Concrete benches usually associate with bulk and mass has become scaled down versions of it’s former self dazzling us with vertical and horizontal planes, curves, turns and modularity so that the seating doesn’t overwhelm a particular space. Since many public spaces are popular during the evening hours, we also starting to see lighting incorporated into the various seating elements.

Similar to artists stretching the boundaries of new materials, the evolving public seating standards so far has embraced many different types of material – steel, various hardwoods, sustainable wood; upcycled wood, cast stone, gfrc, polymers, stainless steel and hdpe.

Best of all, the new evolving public seating standards appear to be custom designed products but are really standard off-the-shelf designs created by forward looking manufacturers. Here’s a snapshot of authentic urban public seating.

Posted in Artistic Bicycle Racks, Bicycle Parking, Bicycle Racks, Bike Rack Art, Decorative Bicycle Racks, Litter Receptacles, Parks, Plaza Seating, Public Amenities, Public Places, Public Realm, Public Seating, Public Spaces, Rubbish Bins, Street Furniture, Streetscapes, Sustainable Design, Trash Receptacles, Uncategorized, Urban | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Authentic Urban Public Seating

Parklets Have Gone Mainstream!

Indoor Parklet at 2014 Smart Growth Conference

Indoor Parklet at 2014 Smart Growth Conference

The idea of turning parking spaces into small parks or parklets has gone mainstream. Orginating in San Francisco in 2005, parklets are urban parks or plaza created by extending sidewalks or pedestrian activity zones into space usually reserved for automobile parking.

To create the additional space, the sidewalk elevation is extended into the street using pedestal supports and structural tiles. Once constructed, the new space is populated with an assortment of pedestrian amenities. Parklets are quickly becoming an important part of the urban and not so urban fabric.

The benefits of parklets are numerous – they provide public space in areas lacking such space, create pedestrian street activity, support neighborhood retail and impact air quality. Parklets create civic conversation and engagement and they have the potential to engergize neighborhoods. Typical parklet locations include business, entertainment, retail and restaurant districts; multi-family residential and office/commercial districts.

Parklets originally gained traction as a way to create temporary parks in densely populated areas, retail business owner, economic development officials, active transportation planners and smart growth advocates have embraced parklets as a way to create more walkable and pedestrian friendly communities.

Primarily found in urban areas, parklets have the potential to impact both urban and rural communities. They can provide a catalyst to energize a struggling neighborhood, temporarily demonstrate the impact of a low cost high impact idea or solicit input on a proposed program prior to it’s actual implementation. Parklets have been promoted by advocates of CNU (Congress for New Urbanism), Smart Growth, Tactical Urbanism or DIY to turn the planning process upside down.

Many cities – most notably Los Angeles through it’s People St. program – has created a formal process for those neighborhoods and business districts interested in installing parkets. They’ve created citywide regulations to support parklets and developed support documents to encourage parklets.

Within the support documents, there are manuals for three different categories of parklets – Plaza Parklets, Street Parklets and Bike Corrals. The manuals include recommended locations and eleven different parklet models. The kit of parts include roadbed graphics, recommended types of furniture for each of the parklets and wayfinding signage.

The parklet typicals and parklet component list are rather extensive. However, none of the parklet typical emphasized components to accommodate kids or families – a major oversight. Trash receptacles also weren’t included in the kits of parts despite an emphasis of parklet maintenance and cleanliness. Also noticeably missing were umbrellas or shade devices. Consideration might also be given to creating parklets for pets as a way to channel some pet activities.

Parklet cost estimates according to People St. ranges between – $35,000.00 to $60,000.00 depending on the typical selection. That range is probably consistent with custom produced product, but readily available off the shelf components are more cost effective and will reduce parklet cost by 30% to 50%. The People St. program application requires that a parklet be installed within 30 days of receiving approval. That requirement probably also adds to the cost of the parklets especially if custom components are used. Many off the shelf parklet components are usually available within that time frame.

Take a look at the various parklet programs across North America.
– Here’s a selected list of parklet websites –
Boston – Curbed Parklets
Oakland – Parklet Program
San Francisco – Pavement to Parks
Seattle – Pilot Parklet Program
Tucson – Tucson’s First Parklet
Vancouver – Parklet Pilot Program

Posted in Bicycle Parking, Bicycle Racks, Bike Rack Art, Chair, Cities, Decorative Bicycle Racks, Parklet, Parklets, pedestrian amenities, Public Amenities, Public Places, Public Realm, Public Seating, Public Spaces, Uncategorized, Urban | Comments Off on Parklets Have Gone Mainstream!

Public Space Updates

Tables and Chairs at Sidewalk Cafe

Tables and Chairs at Sidewalk Cafe

April 2nd
The Public Health Impact of Community Speed Reduction

Designing Better Places
Eight Part Series on Designing Public Spaces
Sneckdown: Using Snow to Design Safer Streets
There’s a Science to Foot Traffic, And it Can Help Us Design Better Cities

Pedestrians and Walking
Cartoon – If Pedestrians Had Clout
It’s Not Too Far – Walk Your City
Safe Routes to Everywhere
The Impact of Neighborhood Walkability on Walking Behavior

Pedestrian Safety
Jaywalking: How the Car Industry Outlawed Crossing the Road
NY Vision Zero Report and Street Safety Agenda
NY Vision Zero Action Plan

Street Design
Finland: Drivers Will No Longer Rule the Road in Cities of the Future
How to Make Crosswalks Artistically Delightful
NY Times – The Mean Street of New York
San Francisco Ponders Rainbow Colored Crosswalks
What Maps of Philly Pedestrian Deaths Tells Us about Street Design
World Class Streets Have More Pedestrians
World Class Streets

Traffic Calming
The Atlantic Cities – A DIY Approach to Slowing A City’s Cars

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