The borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal in Montreal has launched an unusual public development project; a parklet that is being developed. A concept inspired by cities such as San Francisco and Vancouver, parklets, or placottoirs in French, are sitting and rest areas resembling outdoor terraces that are installed in the parking areas in front of businesses. What makes them unique? They are accessible to everyone, from customers to people passing by, and the sale of products is forbidden.
Montreal’s very first parklet appeared on Saturday, July 5th on the corner of Duluth and Saint-André in front of the Léo le Glacier ice cream shop. It took little time for this new rest stop, located right next to the Lafontaine Park, to become a great success. “From the moment the contractor laid the last board, people from the neighborhood have come to see it, and have been charmed by this pleasant meeting spot,” says Ludovic Charron, the business’ owner. He is not hiding his delight in seeing visitors enthusiastically using the parklet while enjoying his original flavors of artisan ice cream, such as melon-saffron or Campari-grapefruit.
Charron is convinced that the project will help in drawing people to his business. “This investment is also a way for me to do my part in enhancing and adding life to Duluth Street, which is currently having a difficult time,” says the business owner. He bought the ice cream shop a year ago, and invested $7,000 to install the parklet, along with a permit costing about $700. This permit, which does not need to be renewed, costs a modest sum compared to that paid by owners of private terraces. For those owning outdoor installations reserved for their clientele, it costs more than $10,000 per year in fees in order to occupy public space.
“For parklets, the borough does not impose fees for occupying the public space considering that the space is open to everyone. In some ways it is like a giant public bench,” explains Christine Gosselin, a councillor of Plateau-Mont-Royal. Are citizens or business owners at risk of shying away from the idea, seeing as parking spots will disappear under these parklets? “There will always be people who are unsatisfied. But we ought to do more with public space than park cars on it,” retorts Gosselin.
A Great Amount of Interest
Léo le Glacier will not have a monopoly over the parklet for long. According to Gosselin, about ten businesses have already expressed interest in the concept. Small business owners opting for take-out service, like the Maison des pâtes on Rachel Street want to outfit themselves with a parklet. “I think that business owners have a role to play in driving neighborhood life, and frankly, the idea of seeing visitors chat in front of my business really makes me feel good,” says Marc Chiecchio, who owns the Marius and Fanny pastry shop, and also expects to have his own parklet by summer's end.
Other establishments, like the Excentris Cinema believe that they could use a parklet. “We have nothing but a small bench in front of the cinema, and there are constantly people who sit there before or after screenings. A large space would certainly be very popular,” states David Lamarre, who also adds that a final decision has yet to be made.
What type of urban areas or neighborhoods could benefit most from parklets? Are there parklets in your community? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.