Good urban planning and design are critical for making a neighborhood a welcoming place where people want to be. In this series of articles, Planning Principles, we’ll provide examples of how the Rosslyn BID has employed urban planning and design best practices to transform Rosslyn’s urban core into a vibrant, active place.
In March 2016, the Rosslyn BID offered residents and workers a preview of streetscape elements — benches, planters, a bike rack, a newsbox corral, an informational marker and litter bins — that were designed to create a distinctive contemporary character for the neighborhood and encourage pedestrian activity. Located on the corner of N. Oak St. and Wilson Blvd., the new street furnishings have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Eventually, the designs will be rolled out throughout the neighborhood.
Detailed in Rosslyn's Streetscape Elements Master Plan, these are just one part of a strategy to transform Rosslyn's downtown as the neighborhood becomes more of a mixed-use destination, with workers and residents taking advantage of a growing bevy of events and an expanding restaurant and retail scene.
Next up for Rosslyn? A parklet that will reflect the same design aesthetic as the street furnishings already rolled out.
Slated to be installed in two parking spaces at the corner of N. Oak St. and Wilson Blvd. in spring 2018, the parklet will include tables, chairs and plantings. It be an informal gathering spot where people can relax and enjoy outdoor seating away from the hustle and bustle of their busy lives. Rosslyn's parklet will be a pilot project for Arlington County.
The parklet, a mini-park that extends the sidewalk and reclaims space previously reserved for parking, is a growing urban design trend that is enhancing neighborhoods in cities large and small, from Montpelier, Vt., with a population of 8,000, to Los Angeles, with a population of nearly 4 million. According to an article in the July 2017 issue of the American Planning Association's Planning Magazine, the number of parklets in the U.S. has grown exponentially in recent years: In 2010, there were only eight parklets in the U.S.; at the end of 2011, there were close to 30; and by 2015, close to 190 parklets had sprung up across the country.
According to Planning Magazine, studies have shown that parklets help boost retail and pedestrian activity. They typically are established next to places that sell food and drink, and are hosted and maintained by those businesses. Nationally, just a quarter of parklets are developed in collaboration with a local nonprofit like the Rosslyn BID. Although it will be in front of a restaurant, the Rosslyn parklet will be a public space that anyone can enjoy.
"It's great that Rosslyn will bring parklets to Arlington," says Douglas Plowman, the Rosslyn BID's urban planning and design manager. "The parklet will provide a great additional public gathering space in the core of Rosslyn."
On September 15, visitors to Rosslyn will be able to experience a short-term simulation of the parklet for Park(ing) Day. This annual event began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco-based interdisciplinary studio, turned a parking space into a public park. What began as an art experiment is now an internationally recognized event transforming parking spaces around the world every third Friday of September. Parking spaces have been reimagined with everything from seating and greenery to art pieces and activities. People are encouraged to consider the way we currently use road space and how these spaces could be used differently, especially to serve those in places with limited public space.
The BID's Park(ing) Day simulated parklet will encompass two parking spaces and feature a green-turf lawn and chairs. As part of the event, the Rosslyn BID will be on hand providing visitors with 10 percent discount cards for Rosslyn restaurants, while AllSpice Cafe & Catering will be serving free coffee and bagels and cream cheese. Be sure to come by to check out the pop-up park and learn more about the parklet that's to come.
"The BID is excited to introduce the parklet, and Park(ing) Day will be a great chance for people to preview the concept," Plowman says. "We hope they'll stop by, check it out, and enjoy a free coffee and a bite to eat. After the actual parklet is deployed in the spring, we'll look forward to receiving feedback on it. We hope it will be the first of many parklets in Arlington County."