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County Looks to Sprinkle Small Seating Spots in Urban Areas

A small splash of green space in Rosslyn may become the prototype for similar installations, or “parklets,” across the county.

In 2018, Arlington County and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District unveiled this parklet, about the size of two parking spaces, on the northwest corner of N. Oak Street and Wilson Blvd. The county and the BID, which maintains the seating spot, installed it as an experiment to see if parklets could be a new tool for adding open space to urban areas.

After observing how people used the mini-park, the county has prepared a formal process for adding more micro oases to help compensate for the county’s dwindling supply of available land for open spaces. The County Board is slated to review the “parklet program” this Saturday.

“Parklets are publicly accessible to all and serve as extensions of the sidewalk by converting curbside parking spaces into vibrant public spaces,” according to a staff report. “Parklets are social platforms for the community and are often developed through a partnership with the county, local businesses and neighborhood organizations.”

When the prototype was installed, then-Board Chair Katie Cristol said she expected to see a plan for adding more parklets included in an update to the Public Spaces Master Plan. The update, approved in 2019, recommends the creation of a “parklet program.”

“Despite their size and atypical location, parklets can contribute to the public space network and overall sidewalk experience by providing places to sit, relax, or socialize,” the report said. “Future installations of parklets can increase social activity and enhance the pedestrian experience in the urban corridors throughout the county.”

The county would lose money on these micro-parks. Each parklet removes two parking meters, which together generate about $6,150 per year, staff estimate.

The county has found a new source of revenue, however. A new parklet application would cost $2,100 and annual renewals, $500. These fees are intended to cover the time required to review these applications, and not to recoup parking revenue, the report said.

A number of county commissions have weighed in on the program, according to the report.

Responses were “[overwhelmingly] favorable, with comments favoring the potential for an increase in outdoor public spaces, especially in Arlington’s commercial and urban centers where public space is limited,” it said.

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Special Guest: This wine dinner we will be hosting the wine maker

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