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What’s a parklet and how can it boost business?

A Sydney collective is raising funds for a moveable piece of green infrastructure it says can revitalise streets and improve outcomes for local business.

Called a “parklet”, the mobile technology is an extension of the footpath that uses car parks to provide seating, greenery and space to passersby. The first parklet was created in 2010 in San Francisco, with the concept since having spread across the world.

In Australia there’s been limited experience, with Sydney’s Waverley and Randwick councils and the City of Adelaide having experimented with the concept.

In inner-city Glebe, the Glebe Point Road Trial Parklet Program conducted last year backed up what has been found in other jurisdictions: the community loves them and businesses want them.

Following the trial’s success, the team behind the parklet now wants to make them a permanent fixture, with a crowdfunding campaign just launched to raise $24,500 for two new parklets.

With $6500 and a year’s worth of parking waivers (valued at $28,000) from the City of Sydney in hand, the Parklet Project Team hopes the new, more mobile version of the parklet will attract enough support from businesses in the local community to become permanent.

Kris Spann, president of the Glebe Chamber of Commerce, and building & project manager of The Works co-working space (home of The Fifth Estate), is hopeful. He points to last year’s trial, which provided evidence of increased business activity, including one cafe reporting a 15 per cent increase in sales during the four months the parklet was installed outside.

He said businesses were open to the loss of a car space, because where a car would usually only hold one potential customer, the parklet provided enough room for 6-12 potential customers. For locals it adds green space and somewhere to sit and relax.

Some residents, however, have expressed concerned with the loss of car space, and even the possibility of backpackers partying in the parklet and the homeless sleeping in them.

The trial showed that these concerns were not major issues, Mr Spann said.

The new iteration of the parklet will also employ some clever design techniques by ASA – Alexander Symes Architect to bypass the bureaucratic burden of the trial, which necessitated $2000 traffic engineer reports for each location of the parklet, the scrutiny of a City of Sydney traffic committee six weeks prior to installation, and having to be craned in on a truck with associated traffic management crews between 11pm and 4am.

To get around this, the parklets have been designed to be classified as registered vehicles, and, like a trailer, can simply be attached to a car and driven in.

“The design has outsmarted the system,” Mr Spann said.

He thinks the way the parklet has worked around the “over-regulation” could be attractive in other areas across Australia.

“The idea is very scalable. We now have a design that can be replicated very quickly and very cost-effectively.”

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