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Meet the parklet, Philly's newest public space effort

It's a park that fits in a pickup truck. Philadelphia's newest public space initiative, The Parklet, made its debut on Aug. 4 in University City. Flanking the sidewalk on 43rd Street at Baltimore Avenue, the 40-foot long decked platform functions as a highly flexible seating area that takes the place of about three parked cars. The seasonal structure, made of Trex, steel and wood, can be disassembled into its 4'x6' component parts and loaded into the back of a University City District truck.

"West Philadelphia in general is open to innovation and new ideas," remarked State Representative James Roebuck, on hand for the dedication. The Parklet experiment is slated to continue, with three more planned in spaces to be determined. According to designer Jules Dingle of the Center City firm DIGSAU, the next one will be on Lancaster Avenue, but the others have not yet been sited.

The intersection of 43rd and Baltimore is heavy with pedestrian traffic, thanks to Clark Park. The popular Green Line Cafe, with its own outdoor seating, is at the same southeast corner as the Parklet, and  the new seating appears to be an extension of the cafe, but officials were quick to point out that the Parklet is open to the public. "It really is a front porch in many ways," said Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler. The design quotes elements of the new Race Street Pier, added Prema Katari Gupta, UCD Director of Planning and Economic Development. The Parklet idea originated in San Francisco and New York, and UCD put a Philadelphia spin on an imported idea, according to Gupta.

At a cost of $10,000 in materials and a design fee that adds about 10 percent to the total, the Parklet is a quick and easy way to create convivial space. Designer Dingle explained that while the configuration of the present parklet is meant for cafe tables and chairs, potential add-ons include bike racks and fixed tables and benches, which may figure in to future versions.

Source: James Roebuck, Rina Cutler, Prema Katari Gupta, Jules Dingle, UC Parklet
Writer: Sue Spolan

PHOTOS by Ryan Collerd
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