In June of 2020, Venture Richmond and the City of Richmond announced “Picnic in a Parklet,” a program designed to assist Richmond restaurants and other businesses with safe reopening and social distancing requirements. Through this partnership, business owners were offered design and permitting assistance for their requests for more outdoor space, particularly parklets.
This week, construction will begin on five prefabricated parklets at locations adjacent to businesses who participated in the Picnic in a Parklet program. The first two pilot locations include N 29th Street in Church Hill, adjacent to the Nile Ethiopian Café, and N Shields Avenue in the Fan, adjacent to Joe’s Inn. Three additional locations are currently in the works with interested business owners.
“The Picnic in a Parklet program has been an exciting new frontier for the city and its partners,” said Mayor Stoney. “Public space is a valuable community asset that we have the responsibility to use intentionally and equitably. These five new parklets outside small businesses certainly meet that mission.”
Parklets are outdoor patio spaces constructed in the on-street parking lane of the street in front of a business that can function as an area for customers to gather and/or take to-go orders and eat outside safely-distanced. Parklets are by definition public space, not a single restaurant’s outdoor dining area. However, restaurants can offer lightly packaged to-go orders for people who simply want to dine in the parklet in front of the restaurant. The parklets were fabricated by Archatrack and purchased by the City of Richmond Department of Public Works.
“Picnic in a Parklet is a testament to what can happen when city departments, placemaking experts and businesses work together,” said Jason Alley, Provisional Policy Advisor for Restaurants and Small Businesses. “This commonsense collaboration makes it possible for countless residents to safely enjoy public space while supporting our treasured local business community.”
In addition to the five prefabricated parklets purchased and installed by the City of Richmond, two business-led, custom-designed parklets are making their way through the city’s permitting process and will be considered by the Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission this spring. The parklets will be located in Brookland Park and Jackson Ward and are designed by HKS Architects and Walter Parks Architects, respectively.
“We are so excited to see Richmond join the dozens of other American cities who have decided to try parklets on for size, particularly as a way to provide more urban public space during the pandemic,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “I think the mix of city-owned prefabricated parklets and custom-designed parklets awaiting permitting will help make future parklet projects that much easier for businesses and organizations interested in transforming public space. We look forward to assisting them in this process as well.”
More information about the City of Richmond’s Parklet Program can be found here.