BELLINGHAM - A downtown parking space at Chestnut Street and Railroad Avenue has been converted into a "parklet" with benches and potted plants, as part of an effort to make downtown more attractive.
"I think it's great," said Ken Bothman, co-owner of the adjacent business, La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza. "I'm thrilled about it."
Rose Lathrop, green building and smart growth manager at Sustainable Connections, says her organization helped put together the project, in response to surveys that have repeatedly shown a desire for more inviting public spaces downtown.
The parklet was put in place with donated material and labor from Bellingham Bay Builders, Altility Art Studio, Plantas Nativas, Signs By Tomorrow, Z Recyclers and Green Earth Technologies, and there was no cost to the city, Lathrop said.
Clark Williams, transportation superintendent at Public Works, said Sustainable Connections is paying the city for two months' lost parking income from the meter that formerly stood at the parking space, which amounts to $132 a month.
Lathrop said her organization would like to see the parklet stay in place after the two months are up, but Williams isn't sure.
"I don't know how many people are going to want to sit out there in the winter when it's cold and raining," Williams said. "It could be a seasonal thing."
The parklet was installed in a day and could be taken out just as quickly, Williams said.
Lathrop said she and others would like to see more parklets installed around town, and she hopes the first one will demonstrate their attractiveness for businesses and shoppers.
"That's what the businesses are valuing-creating space for people instead of cars," Lathrop said.
Before parklets can become a local trend, the city's Williams said staffers will have to draft policies for their installation for City Council approval.
The first one was installed using the city's existing right-of-way use permit system, which in the past has been used by businesses that wanted to park a trash bin in a city space to hold remodeling debris, Williams said.
Bothman and Lathrop said reaction to the parklet has been almost completely positive.
"I've heard maybe one negative comment from the mailman who used to park there," Lathrop said.