A Philly first: University City gets a parklet

You’ve heard of parks on piers, like the one at Race Street. And you’ve heard of pocket parks, like the one on Chestnut Street near 16th.

Now, meet the parklet, the city’s latest idea to create more green space.

The first one was unveiled Thursday afternoon in West Philadelphia on 43rd Street, across the street from Clark Park.

Essentially, it’s a raised platform on the street — two car spaces wide — with tables, chairs and a few planters. And at only $10,000 a pop, paid for by the William Penn Foundation, it’s comparatively cheap.

Prema Gupta, director of planning and economic development at the University City District, which built the parklet, said in an interview that it addresses a “larger unmet demand for pedestrian amenities” in the city.

And the space across from Clark Park, adjacent to the Green Line Coffee Shop, “is a great node of pedestrian activity already.”

She first encountered parklets on a visit to San Francisco in June — she got a bus pass and roamed the city looking for them — and ended up wanting to export the concept to Philadelphia.

She got a grant from William Penn to build three parklets — the other two should be deployed soon — and got permission from the city to close the necessary parking spaces.

“We want to help foster community-supported innovation,” said Andrew Stober, chief of staff of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities.

His boss, deputy mayor Rina Cutler, said the parklet functions as a “front porch.”

And Matt Bergheiser, UCD’s executive director, said that the parklet was a good demonstration of “the primacy of the pedestrian experience throughout University City.”

A neighbor will be watering the planters, and the Green Line has offered to sweep the platform and take in the table and chairs at night.

Stober and Gupta both said that they hoped that, if this parklet proves successful, it could be replicated throughout the city. Gupta, for instance, said Germantown Avenue along Mount Airy, where she lives, would be a perfect location.

Along those lines, the parklet’s railing copies the one used at the Race Street Pier, and the table and chairs are similar to the ones across the street at the newly renovated Clark Park — a step, Gupta said, toward establishing a common design vocabulary for Philadelphia public spaces.

The parklet will be taken down by the end of October, but if it proves successful it should be back next year.

Contact the reporter at acampisi@planphilly.com

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal