Looking for a safer place to meet up with a friend? Consider visiting a parklet

As COVID continues to affect our daily lives, people are looking to regain some sort of freedom to move about, including savoring the newest dishes at their favorite restaurants. Finding a seat can be hard enough and COVID has only increased that burden with the rules of social distancing. 

So what is the solution?

The Tampa Downtown Partnership has invested around $20,000 to create temporary “parklets” to help solve this issue. A parking space turned into a mini-park adds a unique twist to the casual dining experience.

“With our gorgeous weather, who wouldn’t want to sit outside? “ says Karen Kress, Director of Transportation and Planning at the Partnership.

With COVID slowing not only our lives but also the busy streets of Tampa, the Downtown Partnership was able to quickly mobilize the parklet concept through the City’s Lift Up Local program. Their first parklet appeared on Twiggs Street. 

The partnership invested in four parklets intending to move them around every six months. Each 8-by-28-foot parklet is adjacent to a restaurant or bar with socially distanced seating, planters, and a specialized splash of color sitting on top of a unique mural. Artists were hired to paint them. 

Currently, the four parklets are located in Tampa Heights on North Franklin Street near Hidden Spring Brewery, in the Channel District on 12th Street near District Tavern, in the Central Business District on South Tampa Street near Pint and Brew and DeVitos, and lastly, also in the Central Business District, on Madison Street near the Urban Cantina. The four artists who painted the murals are Ron Simmons, Meaghan Farrell Scalise, Indie Reece, and Nicole Peasley. 

The locations for the parklets are chosen with a combination of staff and merchant recommendations. To minimize the loss of parking revenue, only one of the four locations is sitting in a space where cars could park. 

“Our staff networks with our peers in other cities and are constantly on the lookout of ideas that we can emulate back home,” Kress says. “Cities all over the world have implemented parklets. It wasn’t until Mayor [Jane] Castor’s administration that the City would approve the trade-off between losing an on-street parking space but gaining more people space.”

Tampa has been doing parklets for as long as 10 years while participating in National Park(ing) Day. However, those were only one-day installations. Now, all parklets fall under their Lift Up Local Phase 111 program and will be extended until Easter. Anyone can ask the city for the installation of a parklet without the Partnership’s involvement. 

Now with these new lively parklets featured around the city, you can enjoy not only food but its exquisite artwork. Each parklet is available on a first-come, first-served basis with no reservations required.
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Read more articles by Lauren Wong.

Lauren Wong is a graduate of the University of Tampa with a degree in journalism who is freelancing while she looks for a full-time job. Originally from the Chicago area, she enjoys travel and aspires to be a travel photojournalist. During the summer of 2019, she worked for Premier Travel Media in Chicago and as a correspondent for Input Fort Wayne, another Issue Media group online magazine based in Indiana. She loves spending time outdoors camping, kayaking, and taking pictures.