Dallas Temporary COVID-19 Parklets May Become Permanent

Supporters say the curbside street seating areas make Dallas more inviting

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Parklets were allowed in Dallas as temporary outdoor customer seating in curbside parking spaces to help social distance-limited businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 20 foot by six-foot parklets turned out to be quite popular with businesses and their customers.

So, now that businesses are no longer indoor capacity limited, Dallas leaders are talking about making parklets permanent with a new ‘Street Seats’ program.

And a non-profit group has a prototype to help more businesses join the program.

“I think it’s wonderful that they’re going to make it permanent,” said City Tavern Owner Adam Lewis.

His popular bar on Elm Street was one of the first downtown businesses approved for a parklet in 2020.

When the place was allowed to open with just 25% capacity, it meant there could only be nine people inside where 49 were normally allowed.

The temporary parklet could have as many people as felt comfortable being in the curbside outdoor space.

Now Lewis said he is willing to upgrade the space and he expects neighboring Elm Street businesses will want to have street seat space, too.

“You can really make it your own when you can do something permanent and sink money into it rather than temporary which can go away anytime,” he said. “I think it will really start to take off and you'll see more businesses, hopefully just right down the street. Let’s see? Campisi's and Beehive? Just knock it out.”

There were 19 Dallas parklets approved around the City of Dallas at the peak of their use in the pandemic.

Lewis is one of six so far to be approved for Street Seats extensions.

A non-profit foundation called Better Blocks has designed a prototype structure that can easily be copied by businesses to place in the 20 by six-foot space.

Executive Director Krista Nightengale said Better Blocks devised the approach even before the pandemic for a better use of parking spaces.

“By creating an element like this, you can expand the footprint of a business or a restaurant and allow more people to gather outside,” she said.

Nightengale said Dallas would benefit if more businesses use the design. She said taking a few spaces leaves plenty of parking in the city that was designed for cars.

“There’s definitely a balance. You need some parking in areas, but Dallas tends to be a bit over-parked. So, I definitely think there’s opportunities to rethink what that space could be used for,” she said. “We’re starting to put a little more emphasis on people and pedestrians than we have in the past.”

Adam Lewis said a city with more street seats will be more inviting for visitors.

“It's a visual. You drive down the street one time and you're from the suburbs, whatnot. That's cool. It's noticeable,” he said.

The Dallas City Council Economic Development Committee heard the ‘Street Seats’ plan Monday and members spoke in favor of the staff proposal to extend Parklet approvals.

Councilman Omar Narvaez said he hopes they will become permanent. No members spoke against that idea.

Parklet permits were to expire in July 2022, but new applications will be allowed to remain in use through at least July 2023.

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