by Virginia Simpson-Young, Bulletin 4/2022, June 2022
Readers may remember the ‘parklet’ that popped up on the road outside six different Glebe Point Rd venues in 2015. The parklet was a cut-down shipping container modified to provide outdoor seating surrounded by potted greenery. The parklet was being trialled in a joint project between the Glebe Chamber of Commerce and the City of Sydney.
Now called a ‘people parker’, the parklet was the brainchild of then Glebe Chamber of Commerce president, Kris Spann. Kris was awarded the NSW Business Chamber’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015, and the Chamber of Commerce won the Sydney Chamber of the Year award in the same year for Glebe’s parklet trial program.
Earlier this week, I contacted Kris Spann to get information about the parklet’s Glebe origins for this article. Kris stressed that I must report Robyn Kemmis’ role in the original program. Kris Spann said,
Robyn’s support within Council helped push through the trial and get the Chamber the $10k matched grant funding that kickstarted the Glebe Mobile Parklet trial in 2015. Robyn was at the launch of the parklet in 2015 before sadly passing away later that year.
The 2015 trial was a success, and a crowdfunding campaign was launched to improve the parklet’s design for future roll-out. Thirty-one individuals and organisations from the Glebe community made it possible to engage the then Glebe-based firm Alexander Symes Architect to redesign the parklet. These new parklets qualified as registered vehicles, meaning less bureaucracy to relocate them, since they could be ‘parked’ with simply a parking permit. The new parklets were also much cheaper and easier to move.
In 2016, with the newly-designed parklets built and ready to go, the Glebe Point Rd Mobile Parklet Program was launched by Deputy Mayor Jess Miller and Costa Georgiadis. After the launch, Costa ran a workshop with local kids to plant the parklet’s plants.
The parklets are now produced by the firm People Parkers. From its Glebe beginnings, mobile parklets can now be found in multiple locations throughout NSW and Victoria. Twenty-four different types of parklets have been built for 18 councils across Australia.
Kris Spann attributes the recent strong interest in parklets to the COVID pandemic: Councils looked for ways to encourage COVID-safe patronage of local businesses, and the parklets were perfect for that purpose. This Sustainability Award category covers public buildings or amenity designs that promote ‘sustainability, renewability and regenerative design’. Candidates for this award may be parks, pedestrian bridges and walkways, pools, shelters, picnic facilities, toilet blocks, playgrounds, green roofs or green walls.
The mobile parklet began life in Glebe, and has since contributed to the amenity (and economies) of other communities in NSW and beyond. We can be proud that this innovative concept has received recognition for its contribution to sustainability via the 2021 Public, Urban and Landscape Sustainability Award.
Kris Spann is interviewed about his mobile parklet journey in Episode 107 of the Talking Architecture & Design podcast, published earlier this month.
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