Guides for creating parklets

This resource is based on two comprehensive guides regarding how to create parklets – the repurposing of space to create small-scale parks and extra seating, which became popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. The first is a toolkit created by a team of researchers from UCLA in 2012, and the second, a 2020 guide provided by Parkade. The guides explain what parklets are and their benefits; case study examples from around the world; and practical advice about materials, costings, and tips about how to create a safe and enjoyable parklet.

Date added 23 September 2020
Last updated 23 September 2020

[1] Reclaiming the right of way: A toolkit for creating and implementing parklets (UCLA) [external article link]

[2] Complete guide to parklets and streeteries (Parkade) [external article link]

This resource is based on two comprehensive guides regarding how to create parklets – the repurposing of (often parking) space to create small-scale parks and extra seating, which became popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, as businesses had to expand their seating outdoors to attend to social distancing guidelines, and people sought out more greenspace. The guides explain what parklets are and their benefits; case study examples from around the world; and practical advice about materials, costings, and how to create a safe and enjoyable parklet. As the UCLA researchers explain [1], the term ‘parklet’ was first used in San Francisco in 2005 to describe the conversion of car parking space into a mini-park for passive recreation. Since then, they explain the idea and usage of a parklet has expanded, and they offer a parklet typology depending on the following characteristics (p.5):

  • Location – the space the parklet is now occupying (e.g. parking spaces).
  • Surrounding land uses – commercial or residential.
  • Size – ranging from a couple of parking spaces, to a whole parking lot.
  • Shape – linear, square, rectangular, triangular, or irregular.
  • Duration – temporary or more permanent.
  • Type of activity – passive or active recreation (e.g. sitting or play).

The authors then provide practical advice regarding materials, design, and costings involved in each of the varying features listed above, drawing on a range of real-life case studies and photographs throughout. The Parkade article [2] further offers a series of practical advice, alongside the following 8 top tips for creating successful parklets.

Parkade’s top tips for creating parklets and streeteries

1. Pay attention to drainage

Ensure you are not blocking any drains to avoid any issues with flooding. Before designing the space check out street drain locations, and ensure your parklet is weather-resistant.

2. Strive to make it level

A level parklet makes it more accessible and creates a better experience for both staff and consumers. Strive to ensure the space is level with the pavement so it seems like a natural continuation of the street, and there are less tripping hazards.

3. Safety first

Ensure there are buffers between the parklet and the road to create a safe environment. Be aware of who else uses the space (bicycles, slow moving traffic, fast cars etc.) and design accordingly. It is important to consider the materials used to ensure safety of users too.

4. Tear down that wall

It is important to ensure the parklet is safe, and that people can see in and out of it. Glass walls can be used instead of high fences to make the parklet feel more welcoming, and attract other patrons into the business.

5. Make it your own

A parklet is an extension of the business. You can give your parklet a personal touch through decoration in line with the brand identity, for example through colours, flowers, and other decorative elements.

6. Look up

As well as providing seating, those designing parklets should also consider what patrons can see when they look up. This could be in terms of including decorative elements such as fairy lights, but also in terms of health and safety by taking the weather into account, for example by providing sun shades in sunnier climates.

7. A little greenery goes a long way

There is evidence of people increasingly seeking out greenspace during the Covid-19 pandemic. By including greenery, such as planter boxes and integrating plants into the parklet’s walls, a more attractive and inviting space can be created.  

8. Think through daily maintenance

Whether a more permanent parklet is created, or a more temporary ‘streetery’, it is important to think about its daily maintenance. What needs to be moved back inside each night once the business is closed? Which materials are more weather resistant over time?

For related resources  

For an introduction to tactical urbanism, please see this short video from Dr. Steve Millington (Institute of Place Management).

For practical advice about how to implement tactical urbanism quickly, please see this Quick Builds for Better Streets guide

For comprehensive information about the materials and design elements of tactical urbanism initiatives, please see this Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Design.