Parklets bring imagination to downtown Raleigh

June 9, 2014 

Mention “parking” and “downtown Raleigh” in the same sentence, and most residents would return a roll of the eyes, a groan or two, and a few stories about the nightmare of trying to find a space in the Capital City’s core.

But in one case, wait for the rest of the sentence.

Something is changing in downtown Raleigh, where a previous city council once stood in the way of a wonderful Fayetteville Street art project by famed Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa. In that nightmare of narrow-minded officialdom, the city lost a chance for a signature piece of art for downtown.

But now, about that something. It’s the emerging “parklet” phenomenon in downtown, wherein semi-permanent, privately designed “parks” created in parking spaces, which go for up to $2,500 apiece, will cover what now are empty parking spots. No one knows exactly what the parks will look like, although a gift shop on Salisbury Street plans natural turf and maybe a juice bar in a couple of its brand new spaces.

Yes, there will be some spaces lost. But city officials note that with parking decks, the city actually has quite a bit of paid parking downtown.

The parklet movement started in San Francisco and Raleigh is trying it out. The loss of a relative few spaces just isn’t going to be a big problem, but little parks could be a big addition.. There are plenty of safeguards in place: Nearby property owners have to support the idea; permits must be had; there will not be parklets on Fayetteville Street.

The $2,500 annual fee seems fair.

City officials are due credit for expanding downtown horizons. And say...has anyone thought of putting in a call to Jaume Plensa?

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