New parklet has real curb appeal in University City

A new concept in urban public space has been installed in West Philadelphia.

It’s called a parklet. It resembles a short boardwalk, about 40 feet long, extending the sidewalk 6 feet into the street. The loss of two parking spaces is meant to be a gain for pedestrians.

At the corner of 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, directly in front of the Green Line Cafe, the parklet platform is furnished with tables, chairs and plants.

It adds to the tables and chairs already placed on the sidewalk by the coffee shop. It seems to add sidewalk real estate to the business. The difference is you don’t have to be a customer to sit down in the parklet.

“It’s public real estate,” said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor of transportation and utilities. “People don’t have to buy anything, they don’t have to eat anything. They can just hang out.”

Cutler, who calls it a “neighborhood front porch,” worked with the University City District to realize the parklet. It has successful precedents in San Francisco and New York. Matt Bergheiser, University City District director, says it is meant to be a pedestrian amenity.

“Baltimore Avenue has really popped and come alive, with an eclectic gathering of restaurants and shops,” said Bergheiser. “This spot is a great gathering place. The parklet will be a manifestation of that.”

At a cost of $10,000, the parklet was funded by the William Penn Foundation. The pilot parklet was installed near Clark Park because 43rd Street has relatively low traffic, and the surrounding residents and businesses were enthusiastic.

“We knew we wanted to do it outside of Center City, where taking out parking spaces is serious business,” said Cutler.

If it proves to be popular in West Philadelphia, the city will consider installing other parklets downtown.

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