Add mini-parks to the slate of new ideas that the City of Olympia and merchants have tapped into in a bid to make the downtown area a more inviting place to visit, dine and shop.
While there may be some who grumble that the city can’t afford to lose downtown parking, the conversion of four parking stalls into two “parklets” — one in front of Darby’s Cafe on Fifth Avenue and another next to Jake’s and Olympia Hot Dog Co. on Fourth Avenue — is worth a try.
The more public spaces in downtown Olympia, the better, especially when they enhance rather than detract from businesses.
The mini-park project is a cooperative venture between the downtown group called the Parking and Business Improvement Area, the city and individual business owners.
Anyone who’s headed to Darby’s on the weekend for breakfast or brunch knows how crowded it can get just inside and outside of the walk-up cafe. The new parklet features two reclaimed church pews, tables, eight planters for herb gardens, bicycle parking and a retractable awning. It will be a great place to either wait for a table or just sit and enjoy someone’s company.
Each parklet is unique. At Jake’s, the plan calls for a u-shaped bench accompanied by a curved planter box adorned with flowers and shrubs.
The tiny public spaces fit in nicely with the city’s initiative to quickly increase the number of well-attended public spaces in downtown Olympia without spending a pile of money. The PBIA has committed $3,500 for each parklet and the businesses associated with the mini-parks are contributing, too.
The mini-parks join a host of other projects and initiatives to improve the downtown experience. Others include the artesian well park, the downtown ambassador program, the effort to eliminate the sale of high alcohol-content malt liquors and fortified wines in downtown stores, and better self-policing by taverns and nightclubs to reduce drunken rowdiness on the streets.
Give the parklets and other measures a chance to succeed in transforming the city street scene. They can only help.