As cities become denser and empty spaces are squeezed out, green spaces have become more snug. As part of the trend, the French Quarter Parklet will take up only two parking spaces.
The latest of the city’s micro-parks, called parklets, will be a fashionable patio with wooden walls, wide benches and planters holding ample greenery at the corner of Main Street and 21st Avenue. Its centrepiece will be an unorthodox bicycle bar, where locals can sit at a table without getting off their bikes.
Unlike most other green spaces, the parklet will not be financed with tax dollars. Part of a City of Vancouver pilot project, the tiny park will be sponsored by a local business. Similar projects faced opposition in Toronto and Montreal, but few objections have been made in Vancouver.
“Everyone in the buildings and homes around signed onto the project. We got an enormous amount of support. In terms of opposition, I met only a single person who said they weren’t interested in losing the parking,” said Anne-Geneviève Poitras, the sponsor of the parklet, which will measure about about 27 square metres.
With donations from area residents and businesses and a successful online crowd-funding campaign, it will cost about $25,000 to build, including fees to the city.
The little oasis in front of Ms. Poitras’s business, Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France, will be near the centre of the Riley Park neighbourhood, an area of small cafés, organic food stores and local clothing shops that lacks public spots and places to sit.
“While it’ll be right in front of the business, it’ll be a space open to everyone, with a big ‘Public Space’ sign,” Ms. Poitras said.
Kathleen Corey, an intern at a local architectural landscaping firm, approached Ms. Poitras in the summer to see if she was interested in the pilot project. The two only had a week to gather signatures and draw a conceptual plan before the city’s deadline.
The intersection of Main Street and 21st Avenue is unofficially known as Vancouver’s French Quarter. Ms. Poitras is from Montreal, the owner of the Coco et Olive café next door is French, and the manager of the bakery across the street is a Quebec transplant. The businesses all expect people will buy treats from their shops and take them to the parklet.
“The only real pain will be to figure out which dishes belong to which shop,” said Chantal Boulard, the manager of Liberty Bakery.
As she washed ample amounts of chocolate off her hands, Ms. Boulard explained that the area overflows with pedestrians during Car Free Day each year. She hopes that the parklet will encourage more people to sit down and enjoy some tranquillity.
While traffic whizzes past on Main Street, 21st Avenue is peaceful. A block away, a swing sways lazily from a tree on the side of the road.
“I chose this area because it’s very relaxed and people are happy, they talk to each other on the streets,” said Ms. Poitras, who has been in business there for five years.
While the park was due to be built last October, the plan now is to install it at the end of February. However, a few “stamps” from the city are still missing, according to Ms. Poitras – part of the growing pains of a pilot program.
Three parklets have already been installed; six more are planned for 2014.