‘Parklets’ serve as patios

Bryan LaRoque of Route 30 Bottles and Brew stands on one of two new ‘parklets,’ for which he is building a railing and flower box system. Purchased by the Main Street program, LaRoque will rent the parklet to provide an outdoor patio area for his business.

Two new “parklets,” small outdoor seating areas placed in the street, each sized to replace a single parking space, will be added downtown The Dalles this summer.

One will be rented by Route 30 Bottles and Brew, 317 E 2nd St., and the other by Zims Brau Haus, 604 E 2nd St. Both will be used as outdoor seating space by the two businesses.

The original parklet, located in front of Gorge Community Music, will continue to be a public seating area.

The parklets were purchased by The Dalles Main Street program, and received approval from the city council Monday.

“Our primary goal is to have a pedestrian friendly, welcoming downtown, while also having a positive impact on our downtown businesses,” explained Matthew Klebes, executive director of the Main Street program.

Bryan LaRoque, co-owner of Route 30 with his wife Johna, is excited about renting one of the new parklets.

“It's really going to attract people to The Dalles,” he said.

LaRoque plans to have tables with bench seating for 12. A woodworker, he is making the seating for the parklet, as well as the railing and flower boxes for both parklets. He plans to grow hop vines in his flower boxes.

“An outdoor seating area for customers is going to increase business, and it will be kid-friendly as well,” he added. He is sure his customers will like it.

“I want to be sitting out there having a beer myself,” he chuckled.

Each new parklet will occupy a single space, and are about the length of a full size pickup. They are designed to maximize the outdoor space available for use.

“One goal of the program was to have a clear economic impact on downtown businesses,” Klebes said. “Creating outdoor patio space will increase the number of customers they can serve as well as create an attractive environment that draws customers to downtown.”

Klebes noted that, as people walk through the downtown area — perhaps because they had to park a short distance from their destination — they are more likely to interact with other businesses in the downtown corridor.

“When people see pedestrian traffic in the downtown area, they begin to see it as a destination,” he added.

Main Street has purchased the parklet platform and the materials needed to construct the railings and flower boxes.

The parklets will be rented to businesses from May to November.

“That way the business can test it out for a season, see if it will work for them,” said Klebes.

The tiny patio spaces will be rented for $2,000 per season. The business is responsible for maintenance, and has to keep them in good condition.

At the end of the season, Main Street will remove and store them.

The parklet is based on a platform which has a series of jacks and struts to create a solid, level surface over the street that allows rainwater to flow under the structure. Each parklet results in the loss of at least one parking space.

“That is one of our top concerns,” Klebes said.

He noted that there is a balance between the public good provided by downtown parking spaces and the economic benefits in using some of that space for commercial enterprises. “It’s something new, it’s something we are still figuring out now. We will be taking away a few spaces.”

“We are striving to reach a balance between car access, benefits to local businesses, creating a pleasant downtown, and increasing pedestrian traffic. Currently, only one parklet is allowed per block and they cannot be placed near intersections.

“We don’t want 10 parklets downtown, we want public parking downtown.”

He added: “If customers park farther away, then they will stroll downtown. That puts more people on the street, more people walking around. When people see that, it can make them feel like it is a destination. One or two blocks, that is not so far to walk.” In Hood River, a parking spot three or four blocks from your destination is thought to be a good parking spot, Klebes said.

The impacts, good and bad, will be evaluated after each season and the program will expand slowly each year depending on funds, impact, and community support..

“We hope the parklet benefits will be good not just for that one business, but the entire block,” he said.

Klebes encourages the community to provide feedback once they are installed. He can be reached at 541-370-2966 or email tdmainstreet@gorge.net.

“We really want feedback, throughout the year, and when they come down we’ll evaluate the program,” he said.

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