New pilot program for ‘parklets’ in Nashville announced

PARK(ing) Day is an international event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks or parklets.

On Friday, Nashville’s seventh annual PARK(Ing) Day, and in response to growing community demand for urban amenities and open space, Mayor David Briley announced a new pilot program for the installation of ‘parklets’ on Metro’s streets.

“Every year on PARK(Ing) Day, both Nashvillians and our visitors clearly demonstrate through their enthusiasm that ‘parklets’ can contribute to a vibrant, active street scene,” said Mayor Briley. “By partnering with the private sector, this new parklet program will further enhance public spaces in support of our neighborhoods and business districts in Nashville’s urban centers.”

Following the lead of established and successful parklet systems in our peer and aspirational cities, Nashville’s parklet program will facilitate the conversion of on-street parking spaces to publicly accessible open and recreational space, enhancing urban streetscapes and promoting economic prosperity.

Parklets convert one or two on-street parking spaces into public open space and are a cost-effective way to activate streets, create more vibrant neighborhoods, and promote economic vitality. Typically, parklets are privately funded and maintained by a hosting organization or business, but serve as public space that’s accessible to all. Although parklets are not considered permanent, they would be approved under a permit that can be renewed from year-to-year if the parklet is serving the neighborhood well.

“After serving as localhost and sponsor of Nashville’s PARK(ing) Day celebration for the past seven years, we’re thrilled to see Metro respond with an application-based program for parklets,” said Nashville Civic Design Center CEO Gary Gaston. “We’re excited to serve on the review committee and look forward to the new spaces that will be created by our vibrant community of small businesses.”

PARK(Ing) Day is an internationally recognized, one-day event where urban parking spaces are transformed into pocket parks and parklets, and has been hugely successful in Nashville for seven consecutive years now. Despite PARK(Ing) Day’s continuity here, no city-sanctioned parklets yet exist, leading planners with the Metro Division of Transportation to consider allowing parklets that would last longer than just a one-day installation of non-durable materials.

Parklet programs have been created in cities around the world as a way to support community-driven projects that allow people to use streets differently.

These programs support creative spaces that add ‘people places’ to the public right-of-way. Parklets also encourage walking, and create more attractive and inviting commercial districts.

“The launch of this pilot program represents just one part of how we’re trying to change the philosophy, in how we approach the right-of-way,” said Metro Division of Transportation Director Jeff Hammond. “We can take a look at Metro’s street network, and perhaps reclaim or open up a few pieces of that land for the community and for people, contributing to a stronger sense of place.”

Along with community groups, Nashville-area businesses are interested in creative and innovative means to add public space to their blocks.

Parklets can increase foot traffic and create seating space near local businesses, while still maintaining on-street parking nearby.

The public right-of-way, which includes city streets and sidewalks, comprises about one-third of Nashville’s total landmass, providing many opportunities to expand and activate public spaces—particularly as Nashville grows and urban areas densify. The Metro Division of Transportation seeks to support (and professionally regulate) creative improvements in the public’s use of our streets and sidewalks, making it easier for community groups and businesses to enliven the city’s public spaces.

Businesses interested in becoming a parklet sponsor must submit their application to MDOT no later than February 8, 2019.

From there, eligible projects will be evaluated by a Parklet Review Committee with representatives from Metro Public Works, Metro Planning, Metro Police, Metro Water Services, Metro Arts, WeGo Public Transit, the Metro Traffic & Parking Commission, the Nashville Downtown Partnership, and the Nashville Civic Design Center.