Richmond installing ‘parklets’ to help businesses during pandemic

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 4:20 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Some new additions are popping up this week in Richmond to help businesses get some extra space for customers outdoors.

The city of Richmond and Venture Richmond announced ‘Picnic in a Parklet’, which will assist local restaurants in Richmond with safe reopening and social distancing requirements.

“It’s going to go right here. It’s going to be about 14 feet wide and about six feet deep,” said Tina Kafantaris, Joe’s Inn Owner.

Kafantaris shows off what will become the newest addition to Joe’s Inn. It’s called a parklet and should generate business.

“It’s great for the restaurant but also just a great community space. I think it’s going to liven things up a lot,” said Kafantaris.

Think of a parklet as a patio-like addition, resting on two parking spots, and can be used by customers to eat their takeout outdoors.

“It started with restaurant owners coming to us and saying that they were interested and then from there we would have to go out and do a site visit. Maybe look at google maps and get a lay of the land,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond.

This week, construction began on five prefabricated parklets at locations adjacent to businesses.

The first two pilot locations include N. 29th Street in Church Hill, by Nile Ethiopian Café, and N. Shields Avenue in the Fan, next to Joe’s Inn.

Business owners are offered design and permitting assistance for their requests for more outdoor space.

“The team had worked with small business owners to identify places where we can transform street parking into flexible public spaces for sitting socializing and eating local,” said Mayor Levar Stoney, Richmond.

The city is partnering with Venture Richmond on the program. City Public Works crews are installing the parklets. The city is also working with three other businesses for the parklet program.

The $60,000 total for all five is funded through the Care Act.

“It’s almost like a pilot program. So people can see that they beautify, that they increase neighborhood traffic and that they’re a net benefit,” Jason Alley, Senior Policy Advisor for Small Businesses and Restaurants.

In addition to public ones, you have another pair of privately-funded parklets now waiting on city approval. Those would be located in Brookland Park and Jackson Ward.

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