Georgetown businesses are transforming four local parking spots into “parklets” today as part of the internationally celebrated Park(ing) Day. A parklet is a miniature park created out of a parking space.
The four Georgetown businesses participating are Baked & Wired, Luke’s Lobster, the Urban Land Institute and D.C. Water. Thirty-three parklets are popping up around the city for the annual event.
Georgetown Business Improvement District Transportation Director Will Handsfield said that the city’s participation in the event helps focus attention on several issues, such as public parking and Georgetown’s limited public park space.
“It’s a neat idea to explore, and hopefully in a couple of key locations, we can look forward to doing something more permanent,” Handsfield said.
The one-day event sponsored by the Georgetown BID originated in San Francisco in 2005 and received widespread recognition in the District in 2012 after six D.C. councilmembers converted their reserved parking spaces on Pennsylvania Ave. into a long stretch of grass complete with picnic tables and a “reading room.”
Handsfield said that Georgetown’s participation in the event will give local residents a chance to interact with their community in spaces that are geared toward them, rather than tourists.
“Since Georgetown is a tourism economy, this is usually the locals saying how much they like [parklets]… and so it definitely caters to the local economy and the local crowd in a way that maybe not all the other park spaces do,” Handsfield said.
The Urban Land Institute, which is participating in the event for the first time, is featuring a one-hole mini golf course, a LEGO building station and seating for passersby in its parklet.
Sara Hammerschmidt, director of the Building Healthy Places Initiative at the Urban Land Institute, said that the ULI’s parklet fits right into the mission of the urban planning organization.
“I think this is raising awareness for the general public because you can really see how your city can be designed in different ways,” Hammerschmidt said.
Baked & Wired, which is participating in the initiative for the third consecutive year, is featuring a community-centered parklet outside of its store that includes benches made out of reclaimed railroad tracks, fresh grass and a chalk-drawing space.
Baked & Wired Operations Director Tessa Velazquez said that the initiative offers an incredible opportunity for community building.
“I think it’s great because it really brings people living in a city together in a real outdoor space,” Velazquez said. “I see all kinds of different people from college students to old people to young people to kids all kind of gathering in this outdoor parklet. And I think that that’s what makes it so special.”
Baked & Wired has plans to add a permanent parklet to the front of its store by the spring, building on the success of its participation in Park(ing) day for the past two years. Handsfield said that other permanent parklets in Georgetown may be added after the one in front of Baked & Wired on Thomas Jefferson Street.
The parklet in front of Luke’s Lobster is offering outdoor seating for restaurant patrons that includes New England-style decor. The D.C. Water parklet is located at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and K Street and is featuring examples of green infrastructure.
Hammerschmidt said that the parklets highlight how little it takes to improve the livability and sense of community in a city.
“You don’t think of a parking space as being very big, but the amount of things you can actually do in such a tiny space once you start doing them is actually kind of amazing,” Hammerschmidt said.
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