This is the new Rosslyn parklet. Image by Rosslyn BID used with permission.

Attractive public gathering spaces, offering greenery and seating in urban areas where space is often limited, are key to successful urban areas. With this in mind, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID), in partnership with Arlington County, is launching a new parklet today, May 31.

Parklets typically take over existing under-utilized parking spaces and often act as an extension of the sidewalk. They can be part of a grassroots effort, installed by businesses or, as is this case, created by a BID. A variety of creative designs have been developed that often tie back to the surrounding environment.

Here’s how parklets first came about

Parklets have evolved significantly from their first iteration as an experiment by a group of urban designers in San Francisco in 2005. The group paid meter fees to create a pop-up park in a parking space for a couple of hours a day. Although they had no name for it at the time, they were, in effect, hosting the first PARKing Day, which is now a global movement.

The American Planning Association has captured the growth of permanent parklets, which often arise from successful PARKing Day installations. In 2010, there were just eight parklets in the United States. One year later, there were more than 30, and by the end of 2015 there were nearly 200. We are excited to bring the first parklet installation to Arlington County.

Image by University City District used with permission.

We installed a small pop-up park at this exact location for PARKing Day in 2017 to generate excitement for this piece. It was a great opportunity to explain the concept of the parklet to passers-by and share renderings of what to expect.

Whether on a large scale during redevelopment or on a case-by-case basis, parklets can be a creative solution for urban communities seeking to add outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed by all. Our parklet is located at the corner of Oak Street and Wilson Boulevard in a space maintained by the BID. It’s near shops, restaurants, office buildings, and soon a Capital Bikeshare station (planned for late 2018) but isn’t limited to patrons — the parklet is open for everyone to use.

Image by Rosslyn BID used with permission.

This parklet is part of something bigger

The parklet installation is part of a broader Streetscape Elements Master Plan for Rosslyn, which lays out ameneties like bike racks, trash cans, newspaper corrals, and planters (as well as some non-traditional items like an information cart and solar charger that can be moved as needed) that make the downtown area more appealing for people walking.

The streetscape plan, which was an important component of the broader 2015 Realize Rosslyn Sector Plan, sought things that would “strengthen the district’s character and enhance the pedestrian environment.” These will become the default for any future redevelopment in Rosslyn and will replace existing items over the coming years.

The Rosslyn elements aim to offer a unifying and modern aesthetic. The parklet is one of those components. Image by Rosslyn BID used with permission.

This parklet uses the same design principles as the other streetscape elements, like these benches. They were designed by Ignacio Ciocchini, the industrial designer responsible for the CityBench and the furnishings at Bryant Park in New York City in conjunction with Lucia deCordré, the BID’s former Urban Design Director. The perforations in all the elements represent the Rosslyn skyline at night.

The parklet will be a two-year prototype installation, and if the public likes it, it’ll be made permanent. The BID will seek feedback from users to evaluate the project and make any necessary adjustments; if you’d like to weigh in you can find a survey at RosslynVA.org/Parklet.

Image by Rosslyn BID used with permission.

The BID chose to pursue a parklet to provide additional outdoor space in the center of the neighborhood. Reclaiming parking spaces for people encourages them to spend more time on the street, making it more lively and interesting for everyone.

The parklet formally launches on Thursday, May 31. There will be a public launch event from 11:30 am-2:30 pm. If you can't make it today, swing by before GGWash's next happy hour at Heavy Seas Alehouse on June 6 to check the parklet out!

Douglas Plowman, AICP is the Urban Planning and Design Manager at the Rosslyn BID. He oversees the BID’s planning functions, and advises BID leadership on the key components of public space planning and design. Douglas is an avid cyclist, and can be found racing across the Mid-Atlantic region most weekends. He has a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.