New York City's Janette Sadik-Khan has become famous by way of bike lanes and the City's plaza program... the both of which involve converting overbuilt vehicular roadways into spaces for people, but the latter is probably most innovative due to the seemingly guerilla start to many of these projects, where paint, cheap bollards, and simple seating come long before concrete, granite and tree planters. But such opportunities abound far beyond the Big Apple.
|Gray's Ferry Avenue at South Street and 23rd Street|
One such spot is Philalphia's intersection of 20th Street, 23rd Street, and Gray's Ferry Avenue. The intersection and street grid create a small, triangular park space separated from the buildings fronting on Gray's Ferry by a section of street that barely gets used, but for four or five parking spaces. While recently visiting the neighborhood, we saw a jazz trio jamming on the Gray's Ferry sidewalk, and fans filled the little park, spilling into the street.
I'd propose closing this small section of street with simple, removable bollards to give shop owners the opportunity to spread out into the street, music to be played, and friends to gather. After all, Philly has the proud tradition of to populating a parking space with a lawn chair... here's a chance to do so for better reason than reserving he space to park your car.
Such an endeavor might grow out out of the City's Parklet Program, which has been great at reclaiming on-street parking spaces for human use, but this is a case where parking is actually the ONLY useful function (the direction of the surrounding streets don't even make it helpful for circulation) of this block of the street, so closing it totally down is certainly worth a shot. If this public space becomes more successful, then maybe, through the City's capital program, the plaza space can be better formalized with new curbs, planting, benches, and the like. Until then, make the most of playing in the street.