Paradigm Shift: Using Street Space for People, Not Cars

Screen shot 2015-03-30 at 11.08.16 AMimage courtesy of dwg

North Congress Ave. will lose four street parking spaces this summer – and that news is being met with cheers, not groans.

A pocket patio is in the works for the northwest corner of Congress Avenue and Eighth Street, making it the second such parklet for North Congress Ave. (There’s another outside of Royal Blue at 609 N. Congress.)

The patio, which is being designed by landscape architecture firm dwg, will hold 30 to 40 people at a time.

“The reason people go downtown is because the place is comfortable, there are a lot of amenities, and it’s a great neighborhood,” says David Kahn, who is leasing the four spaces at Congress and Eighth for the new pocket patio. “We are trying to build some more amenities on the north side of Congress Avenue, and four parking spaces are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I don’t think people go downtown because there’s parking on the street; they go to experience it, and here they’ll be able to sit outside, drink some coffee, and enjoy themselves.”

Daniel Woodroffe, president and founder of dwg, says activating street space into a parklet better meets the needs of downtown residents and workers than parking spaces would. Many of the businesses that have a presence downtown are emerging businesses or tech companies with a large Millennial presence that want downtown designed for people.

“Unanimously, the voice being brought out of those new companies is we want a version 2.0 of downtown, one that is much more focused on pedestrian activity, outdoor gathering, and plaza spaces, where effectively they become an extension of the office, a place to meet,” Woodroffe says. “And downtown is desperately short of those. Royal Blue‘s patio space went from two people feeding a meter all day to 400 people using that space all day. The human metrics of success are astounding there.”

Research in other cities shows that allowing more people to use street space by transforming parking spots to parklets is a big boost for business.

The City is reviewing a permit now, and the patio should be complete by this summer.

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