One complaint Downtown Newark Partnership Administrator Ricky Nietubicz said he often hears about Main Street is the lack of public seating areas.
“We really don’t have any on Main Street,” he said.
To combat the problem, the DNP’s design committee looked to Philadelphia, where parkettes, also called parklets, have recently sprung up across the city as places for pedestrians to sit and hang out.
The parkettes take up one or more on-street parking spaces, typically extending out from the sidewalk and spanning the width of the parking space, and are a growing trend in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.
Nietubicz said the idea is still in the beginning stages for Newark.
“Right now it’s really a conceptual kind of thing,” he said.
If explored further, Nietubicz said, the plan is to block off the parking spots closest to the “bump outs” of the crosswalks on Main Street and turn them into parkettes that will have a combination of seating, bike racks, plants and umbrellas for shade.
“It would convert parking spaces into mini parks,” he said.
The “bump out” would need to be extended in order to protect the people sitting in the parkette, which would in turn improve motorists’ visibility of pedestrians trying to cross the street, Nietubicz said.
The DNP debuted a preliminary design for the proposed parkettes at its New Night festival last month to gauge the public’s opinion on the concept. Recycled forklift pallets were used as the border of the makeshift seating area that Nietubicz said was constructed at minimal expense using volunteer labor.
He said the mockup was presented at New Night “just to show what could be done” and was pleased to see it was well received.
“People thought it was kind of neat,” Nietubicz said. “They liked the safety aspect of it.”
Although the parkette received rave reviews at New Night, Nietubicz said Main Street won’t be seeing the pedestrian hangouts anytime soon. He said it could take years to hammer out the details regarding design, cost and implementation, as the city will need to consult with DelDOT to make changes to the state road.
For now, Nietubicz said, the next steps for the project are to begin discussions with DelDOT and continue to build the public’s support.