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Parklets pop up downtown

Take a break from city life at this curbside park

May 1, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Columbia’s one and only parklet is back. The traveling attraction is camera-ready, so prepare for a photo opp. Photo by Hany Hawasly

The rolling stone of Columbia parks has returned. Be prepared to sit a little happier this summer as the parklet will once again be a part of the downtown landscape. Parklets are small areas of greenery made to fit in a parking spot and enhance the streetscape in cities. They turn an empty, oil-stained piece of asphalt into a pretty patch of community green space and a mighty fine place to take a seat. Columbia’s parklet has a wooden bench, complete with artificial turf under your feet and planters with bright and vibrant flowers all around.

Business owners on Ninth Street are ready for the parklet’s return this year, and it’s not just because of the beauty it offers. Crystal Midkiff, executive director of Mustard Seed Fair Trade, says that the parklet improves the downtown experience for everyone. “It’s important to me that we have environments that induce families gathering and people interacting with each other,” Midkiff says.

Christina Kelley, owner of custom fragrance shop Makes Scents, is glad that the parklet will be moving around the area this year. “It’s more fun when it’s a surprise because it is such a sweet little thing that makes everybody happy,” Kelley says.

San Francisco is home to the nation’s first parklet, which was created in 2010. Since then, parklets have been popping up in big cities all over the country, including Chicago and New Orleans, as well as on the East Coast. The Columbia parklet will be moved to festivals and other events downtown until October, giving passersby a place to park it.

The District Executive Director Carrie Gartner says the parklet makes Columbia even more accessible for city amblers during the warm weather season. “It’s about reusing a parking space temporarily to provide something fun and interesting for pedestrians,” Gartner says. “It’s a fun amenity because (you) don’t know when it’s going to pop up or where.”

Although its destinations around the downtown area are undetermined, the parklet is sparking excitement in the community. “We love it,” Midkiff says. “As far as I’m concerned, it can just be right here all the time.”

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