Park It at a Parklet

New faux-patio spaces were installed in Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain. But they cost a couple parking spots.

photo via Steve Annear

photo via Steve Annear

Boston has seven less parking spaces. But it has a few more places for people to sit.

On Thursday, the city’s Transportation Department unveiled the long-awaited “Parklets,” mini-patio-style spaces where pedestrians can plop down if they feel like taking a break.

The outdoor common spaces are designed to bring activity to commercial districts, and are equipped with tables, chairs, plants, and other amenities as part of the gathering area.

Two parklets were recently installed—one in Jamaica Plain, and the other in Mission Hill. The latter was the official “first” patio-style seating platform, and cost the city upwards of $10,000. More are going to be installed in Allston, Brighton, and Fort Point Channel.

Tom Tinlin, commissioner of the transportation department, said the city is hoping to develop “partnerships” with businesses, and is banking on the idea that they will want to fund the parklets on their own by working with the department to install the spaces outside of their shops. “We did this with seed money to build up some excitement,” said Tinlin, at the unveiling on Thursday, where dozens of people and several business owners showed up to celebrate the new space. “It has been widely accepted. I really think it’ll take off.”

Matthew Postal, owner of Pasta Express, located right next to the new parklet, said he has been waiting for it to be installed since they were first announced earlier in the year. “I love it, I can’t say enough good things about it,” he said.

Postal admitted that it may take some getting used too, and some people certainly are not happy about the loss of parking spaces, but it’s bound to boost his business a little.

Before it officially opened, Postal said people—both drivers and pedestrians— would turn their heads as they passed the parklet. “It was a concern with the traffic and everything, but people that don’t know we are here, because they are just driving by, it sort of causes them to slow down and look around,” he said. It’s definitely doing more good than harm.”

Postal said the only thing he would change about the parklet placed outside his business would be to place a plaque on the wall letting people who use it know that anyone can sit there, not just customers. “It could use some more seating, too, but, whatever,” he said.

Boston’s parklet aesthetic is slightly different from that of other cities that adapted similar programs. The spaces look like actual parks, complete with astroturf and trees. Tinlin said Thursday that Boston could adapt those looks, if businesses that partner with the city decide to host their own. Parklets were first introduced in san Francisco, and later spread to Seattle, New York City, and Chicago.

The parklets will stay situated in Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill until it starts to get cold, officials said, then they will be taken up and reinstalled again once the warm weather returns.

While setup, the parts of the parklet have been bolted down—including the tables and chairs—in an attempt to avoid another catastrophe like the broken hearts installation that was recently stolen. 

  • suzyf921

    The JP parklet has ridiculous half-circle benches – pretty to look at I guess but totally impractical for sitting on. Only one person can sit on a bench at a time, facing… the street? There’s no place for a second person to sit. and it’s not the kind of bench you’d be comfortable sitting on for more than a couple of minutes – no back. whose design was this?

  • Tania

    There’s a freaking park in Mission Hill and an entire pond in JP?!?!?!?! You wanna rest, go rest in nature, not some stupid man-made “park”. Complete waste of money. Spend it on the MBTA.

  • Scott

    The one in JP is 20 feet from a nice little park in front of Blessed Sacrament. Why would anyone want to sit inches from traffic when you could sit on a nice bench in the shade and 20 feet from cars flying by? Stop wasting money!

  • Jack Girvan

    Should definitely put a few near Longwood Medical Center. Then it will be a short walk to the ER. Sit next to exhaust fumes to relax. Who thinks this is a good idea???

  • C-man

    Complete waste of space. Whose moronic idea was it to lessen the already scarce parking in the city? Makes no sense at all. As other posters have stated, take a seat at a nearby park bench. Who in their right mind would think this was a good idea?

    • Chris Mcnally

      We need space for people. Places for them to sit and eat, have a bite, congregate etc. Instead we created space for car storage. That is the misuse of space.

  • Jimmy Wilson

    Everyone is failing to realize the parks referenced are closed at dusk. There are a dozen eat-out restaurants around Mission Hill, but no where to sit outside and enjoy that food. I’d rather have seating that takes up a few parking spots than have to trip over them in the middle of the sidewalk.