It’s only existed for a short period of time, but the outdoor dining space on Murray Avenue between Divino Wine & Dine, 2315 N. Murray Ave., and Two Bucks, 2321 N. Murray Ave., has already been called a "patio," "the bump out" and a "parklet."
"Those two restaurant spaces have historically been challenged with lack of outdoor dining space," says Andrea Richards of the East Side Business Improvement District (BID). "There wasn't much room to add any outdoor seating on the sidewalk, which is something Milwaukeeans have come to expect."
According to Richards, Jim Plaisted, the Executive Director of the East Side BID, presented the idea as a new option to the current restaurant owners and they worked for months to make it happen.
"We approached the Department of Public Works with this idea," says Richards. "The Murray Avenue location is far enough away from an intersection, on a side street where there was a loading zone and two metered parking spaces."
Getting permission to replace public, metered parking spaces with a private parklet posed a challenge, but Richards says that, because the East Side is one of the most walkable and bikeable neighborhoods in Milwaukee, they felt that this was a favorable trade-off.
The support of Ald. Nik Kovac was also instrumental in the execution of the parklet.
Two Bucks and Divino obtained a special privilege occupancy permit, which is a temporary permit that expires in November 2013. At that time, the parking stalls will become available again for the winter months.
"As for the loss of parking meter revenue, DPW included that lost revenue in the permit fees," says Sandy Rusch Walton, communications manager for the Department of Public Works.
The Murray Avenue parklet is based on the successful model developed in San Francisco in 2010. Philadelphia, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas, and Vancouver, British Columbia also have parklets.
The first parklet was created in 2005 as an unofficial activist project when an art and design studio in San Francisco fed a parking meter with coins and placed sod and a potted tree in the spaces. This inspired the city's "Pavement to Parks" program, and by 2011, the program received over 50 applications from people and groups around the city who wanted to create a parklet.
The parklets have different appearances and uses, ranging from curbside patios to more park-like spaces with plants and benches.
This is Milwaukee’s first parklet.
"It's a welcome sight in dense neighborhoods," says Richards. "People welcome the chance to sit outside, it gives patrons of two popular places the chance to people-watch and interact. It's a new idea for Milwaukee which usually interests people one way or another."
Some might initially question whether parklets are dangerous because they are built in the street and in a neighborhood with so many bars, but Richards believes their design accounts for safety.
"We worked with the Department of Public Works on this, and there are visual cues and planters to help distinguish this area on the street. San Francisco has developed guidelines that we believe could serve as a model for the Milwaukee program," says Richards.
This parklet plan includes a fence and railing which encloses the seating area, and protects customers and wait staff from street traffic.
"The parklet also frees up the sidewalk to allow for better pedestrian movement," says Walton.
Richards believes the parklet helps support local business.
"People linger longer when there's a chance to interact in this type of environment," says Richards.
There will be a ribbon cutting and grand opening for the Murray Avenue parklet on Friday, Aug. 23 at noon with Ald. Kovac, the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works, the East Side BID and the business owners of Divino and Two Bucks. More details will appear soon on OnMilwaukee.com.
"We're thrilled the City of Milwaukee took this step and believe it's going to inspire additional ideas for parklets," says Richards.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.