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.
On May 31, 2018, the Rosslyn BID launched a parklet that reflects the same design aesthetic as the street furnishings already rolled out. Installed in two parking spaces at the corner of N. Oak St. and Wilson Blvd., the parklet includes tables, chairs and plantings. It is 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 is serving as 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.
Planning Magazine says 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 has brought parklets to Arlington," says Douglas Plowman, the Rosslyn BID's urban planning and design manager. "The parklet has been a great additional public gathering space in the core of Rosslyn."
On September 21, PARK(ing) Day, visitors to Rosslyn should drop by the Rosslyn Parklet from 12-1 p.m. to share feedback on the parklet with members of the Rosslyn BID team. We'll be giving away free pop sockets for your cell phones as a way to say "thank you."
Curious about PARK(ing) Day and how it got started? 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 is excited about our parklet and glad to have an opportunity on PARK(ing) Day to talk with members of the community about its impact since opening in May," Plowman says. "We hope people will stop by the parklet on PARK(ing) Day to check it out and share feedback on it. We really value what our workers and residents think and take their opinions into account."