Fancy parking yourself outside your local cafe?

Around the Block: Requests for ‘parklet partners’ draw big response from businesses and community groups in Fingal and Cork

Parklets in Cork incorporate pollinator-friendly planting and must be available for public use

Parklets in Cork incorporate pollinator-friendly planting and must be available for public use

 

As communities, business owners and restaurateurs navigate our “outdoor summer”, local authorities have repurposed road space not just by pedestrianising streets but taking over car-parking spots.

Evolved thinking in parts of the US, the Netherlands and the UK has popularised parklets, sometimes as neighbourhood spaces but more usually as extensions of commercial premises, and the idea is gaining traction in Ireland as councils consider how to enable people to gather, queue, eat and shop safely – or just to sit and chat without having to buy anything.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has built a “prototype parklet” outside a number of shops in Sallynoggin as part of the dlrBETA project that seeks “small-scale improvements to the public realm”.

Recent requests for tenders from “parklet partners” by Fingal County Council and Cork City Council, following last year’s popular pilots, drew 59 and 14 applications respectively. The Cork scheme will add six new parklets to the 10 it approved last year, which are being installed at the moment. In Fingal, 46 are in place or are being built.

Most of the applicants are in the hospitality industry, serving food, drink or ice cream, but some community centres in Fingal have applied, and in Cork the neighbourliness of last year’s scheme continues with submissions from community organisations and groups.

Parklet outside Gerry’s Fresh Foods on Strand Street in Skerries, Co Dublin
Parklet outside Gerry’s Fresh Foods on Strand Street in Skerries, Co Dublin

Last year Fingal County Council built parklets in Howth, Malahide, Mulhuddart, Skerries and Swords as part of the Fingal In It Together initiative, according to Emer O’Gorman, director of economics, enterprise, tourism and cultural development in the council. Submissions are assessed by the traffic, parks, services and operations departments, and successful applicants sign a year-long memorandum of understanding with the council, which buys the infrastructure, builds up the footpath for universal access – the flooring is usually decking – and organises street furniture licences. Some structures incorporate benches.

There are some differences in the councils’ approaches to design and layout. In Fingal, O’Gorman said, “the designs are broadly the same while businesses are encouraged to make the parklet their own through painting, lighting, etc”. Cork City Council said creative design and innovative material usage would be favoured, and pollinator-friendly planting included. Their preferred solutions “exemplify regard for sustainability and environmental impact.”

In Fingal, O’Gorman specified that the parklets are for patrons of the businesses to which they are assigned, but that the council has provided more than 300 public benches. In Cork, the parklets must be available for public use.

There’s another difference to consider with your cappuccino. In Fingal, “each parklet costs about €9,000 and is funded via the NTA Additional Outdoor Infrastructure Measures fund”. In Cork, the council says, the unit cost for the latest tender (which specified that it would fund and install the parklets) “is yet to be determined but will be approximately €25,000 per parklet”.

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