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VIA Community Design Studio Celebrates Uptown Parklet Opening

Feb 18, 2015

Uptown Parklet

You may have seen them around town. You might even enjoy one daily as you grab your morning coffee, or take a walk through your very own urban village—  they’re called Parklets. These little dynamos of public space are changing the experience of the pedestrian environment throughout the city.

Parklets were first popularized by PARK(ing) Day, a nationwide annual celebration of guerilla urban design. On PARK(ing) day, street parking stalls are taken over in cities across the country— by artists, activists, designers, every day people wanting to take back their public spaces— and turned into temporary public parks. These little parks help mitigate the automobile-focused environment of urban areas, creating urban oases of seating, bicycle parking, and human-scale space.

PARKing Day Poster_080114

Recognizing the success of PARK(ing) Day and the community value of these spaces, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) as part of its Public Space Management program, began the Pilot Parklet Program. The proposed program takes a cue from cities with successful parklet programs such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal.  Last year, SDOT began a call for applications to begin placing these parklets permanently around Seattle— parks to be designed and built as usable public spaces that are privately funded and maintained.

VIA Seattle’s James Underwood and Katie Idziorek, on behalf of VIA’s Community Design Studio, worked with The Uptown Alliance, a civic organization representing the Uptown neighborhood and urban center, to submit proposals for two different sites in the Uptown neighborhood. Of those two sites, one (in front of SIFF Cinema Uptown on Queen Anne Avenue North & Republican) was selected along with 14 others to begin construction. With the addition of Jared Slater of Slater Construction, the team set to work.

1Working on a tight schedule set by SDOT, the process began with several design workshops facilitated by the Uptown Alliance to which members of the community and local business owners were invited to get involved and be a part of the application and design process. These workshops helped to inform the process and determine the scope of the project. Throughout the community design process, the goals remained focused on reflecting the arts and culture identity of the Uptown neighborhood while providing a safe and well-lit space that was easy to maintain, engaging and interactive for the public, and that fit well with its neighborhood context.

In addition to the Seattle Parks Foundation signing on as the project’s fiscal sponsor providing support throughout the course of the work, a crowdfunding campaign was started to fund the project— everything was welcomed, from volunteer labor to materials and monetary donations. The crowdfunding campaign was a huge success, collecting donations both large and small from more than 90 community supporters. After a few permitting hurdles were cleared, construction on the parklet began in January, 2015.

IMG_20150209_124558With materials and funds donated by local businesses and time and labor donated by Jared Slater, VIA, James Underwood, and Katie Idziorek, construction has been moving along. Working to bring their design to life, the team has been pulling each part of the parklet’s anatomy together one piece at a time. The film reels that accent the railing (donated by SIFF); Uptown’s first Free Little Library; the bike racks (donated by Landscape Forms); the park furniture (which matches nearby Counterbalance Park); and the Walk of Fame, highlighting local donors, are making their way into their final places and will soon be open to the public.

After almost a year of hard work, The Uptown Parklet is slated to open in late February, with a grand opening event on Saturday, February 21 from 1PM to 3PM. The event is set to include Mayor Murray along with members of the Uptown Alliance and the community design groups to welcome the parklet as the sixth completed project of SDOT’s Pilot Parklet Program.

Anatomy of a Parklet

The Anatomy of a Parklet

For more event information, project progress photos, and more, visit the Uptown Parklet on Facebook.