Parklet a hit on West Main

By Andy Kravetz, Journal Star public safety reporter

Reprinted from Journal Star

PEORIA — It’s about the size of a public parking space, but residents and city officials hope the new “parklet’ will spark a new interest in the West Main corridor.

Parklets, said Anthony Corso, the city’s chief innovation officer, are found in cities across the nation. In short, it’s seen as a way to reclaim a portion of the sidewalk, street or parking area and convert it into something that can be enjoyed by all. He said it’s “tactical urbanism.”

“It’s really to add amenities to areas like this one that has fairly narrow sidewalks but have neighborhoods, residents and businesses that would benefit from more pedestrian traffic,” he said, standing near the new parklet that was outside of Las Delicias Mexican Ice Cream Parlor in the 800 block of West Main Street.

The structure, which is portable and can be removed during the cold weather months, features benches and tables. There were planters that offered some vegetation in an area where few plants, save trees and weeds, grow. And from the looks of the people who were enjoying their ice cream, the parklet was a hit.

One woman noted the parking space sized structure almost doubled the number of seats that customers for the ice cream parlor use.

For months, Corso said, the city Innovation Team or I-Team met with area residents, neighborhood groups and businesses to get their feedback on some ideas to revitalize the area. The parklet was seen as an inexpensive method to link the areas north of Sheridan Road to the areas closer to the Bradley University campus, he said.

The I-team plans on reporting on the parklet to the City Council. If deemed a success, guidelines could be created for businesses and residents to create and fund their own parklets. This one, which cost about $5,000 to $10,000, was funded largely by the city, Corso said.