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.