Why Aren't Boston's First Parklets Being Used?

With Boston's first parklets off to a slow start, observers wonder whether their low usage is due to poor planning, bad design, or insufficient outreach. With the parklets set to reopen in the spring, can they be tweaked to succeed?
November 18, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Since the city installed a parklet in Jamaica Plain at 351 Centre St. and another at 1528 Tremont St. in Mission Hill in early September, at the cost of between $15,000 to $25,000 each, observations from abutters, passersby, and Globe reporters suggest that they are hardly the happening spots in town," reports Martine Powers.

“'I don’t really see anyone sitting there,' said Nehemiah Palacios, who works at Rizzo’s Pizza, across the street from the Jamaica Plain parklet. 'I think once I saw someone skateboarding on the bench.'”

While Powers and Vineet Gupta, the Transportation Department’s planning director, offer a plethora of possible causes for the parklets' poor performance - from the unexpected closure of a nearby restaurant to uninviting seating - Susan Silberberg adds her own ideas based on her white paper on Placemaking, “Places in the Making”. As an article published in the Jamaica Plain Gazette during the design process indicates, poor outreach may have played a role as well. 

"As the city readies next month to roll up the parklets for the season, officials are looking for ways to make them more popular when they reopen in the spring," notes Powers.

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Published on Sunday, November 17, 2013 in Boston Globe
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