Pilot project sets example of tactical urbanism for residents and businesses
SOMERVILLE –The City’s first public parklet (or mini park) is now open on Somerville Avenue thanks to a partnership with Forge Baking Company. At just the size of roughly two car-lengths, the seasonal Forge Parklet qualifies as the city’s smallest park, but it packs in plenty of outdoor seating ringed by flower boxes by seasonally transforming two parking spaces into attractive open space (the spaces will revert to parking during winter). Somerville continues to explore innovative ways to expand public space across the city and plans to launch a program later this year that will provide a “how-to” guide for other businesses interested in parklets and other tactical urbanism ideas that support public life. The Forge Parklet is the City’s pilot program to test the process.
All are invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone at the parklet in front of 626 Somerville Ave. on Tuesday, Aug. 4 at 2 p.m. Forge Baking Company paid for the parklet in full and owners Tucker Lewis and Jennifer Park coordinated with the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development to install it in front of their new bakery and café as public space (it is not reserved for café guests). Lewis initially conceived the parklet, which was designed by Davis Square Architects.
“This parklet is an example of how local businesses can help improve the City for everyone through this innovative approach to increasing public space in the most densely populated city in New England,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Local business owners like Tucker and Jennifer are what make this community great, and we owe them our thanks for investing back in the community. I look forward to Somerville expanding these kinds of ideas throughout the city and making our streets even more active and inviting for people.”
“Tactical urbanism” is a strategy for public engagement in city-building that uses low-cost, temporary changes to the physical environment to test ideas for public space, pedestrian safety, and economic development. In the future, the City will release a formal program that will detail steps that residents and businesses can take to design, build, and install parklets along with other activities such as public art and sidewalk furniture that help create vibrant, active streetscapes.
Parklets, which typically are mini-parks sited on parking spaces or other paved city areas, are growing in popularity in cities across the United States as a way to increase public space and make streets more vibrant, and have been shown to create economic benefits by increasing foot and bike traffic, as well as inviting business customers to stay longer. This tactical approach draws from the research of urbanists like Jan Gehl, who proposed a more nimble approach to city building.
In March, the City hired Gehl Studio, the U.S.-based arm of the internationally renowned design firm founded by Gehl, to advance its work toward the SomerVision comprehensive plan’s goal of creating 125 new acres of public open space. The City’s Somerville by Design neighborhood planning initiative has previously used tactical urbanism installations to bring residents into neighborhood planning processes, and last year held its first-ever “Tactical Urbanism Week.”
The parklet program is just one of many ways that the City is working to introduce more green and open space to the City over time to meet the SomerVision goal. The addition of traditional City parks to Union Square as part of Union Square revitalization, creating urban agricultural opportunities such as at First Street Farm, and the establishment of new neighborhood pocket parks such as Symphony Park now under construction are among other ongoing efforts to continue the greening of the city.
For more information on the parklet program, contact Ben Sommer in the City’s Economic Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 625-6600 ext. 2513.