by: Chris Legeros Updated:
SEATTLE - Kate Opatz co-owns the Montana Bar on Seattle's Capitol Hill. She's applied for permission from the city to build a public mini park or "parklet" outside of her business. One and a half parking spaces would be covered with a platform that would include tables, chairs, and planters. There would even be a bicycle corral next to it. Opatz said, "I think if people want to come and sit in this park, it'll bring more people to the neighborhood, which is always good."
It's an idea that was borrowed from San Francisco. Along with the Montana Bar, the City Hostel in Belltown wants to cover three parking spaces with a parklet. Owner Lee Kindell said it would be a great place for his international guests to sit and interact with locals in a sort of cultural exchange. The Chinatown/International District Business Improvement Area is interested in putting up a parklet outside the Fuji Bakery. Executive Director Don Blakeney said, "This is one of many strategies, to create a fun environment on the street for people to feel safe to sit outside, eat, enjoy themselves, linger, not just grab their lunch and go back to the office."
Under the Seattle Department of Transportation's Pilot Program, businesses applying for the parklets would have to design, and build them at a cost of about $15,000 each. They would also have to maintain them and reapply for the space each year. Some residents we talked with are skeptical of the idea. Jessica Scruggs told us it's hard to find parking on Capitol Hill and she's not sure that losing a parking spot is the best plan for the neighborhood. The Parklet Program Manager Jennifer Wieland said the city has looked at parking availability at all three locations and she doesn't think the change in the right of way will have a significant impact on parking. The parklets are meant to be temporary and she said they could easily be removed if there were problems down the road with traffic, parking, or illegal activity.
The city will hear public comments on the proposal for the next couple of weeks. If permits are granted for the parklets, we could see the first appear in another month.