Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Converted (Parking) Spaces

New BG dining decks add function and beauty

Bowling Green’s parklets (also known as dining decks) allow downtown merchants to use city parking in front of their businesses for additional dining and retail space from April through October.  Parklets have become often-utilized urban design tools in the post-COVID arena of city planning, providing shops and restaurants with an outdoor extension to attract customers to a pleasing space while increasing commercial visibility on Main Street. 

People enjoy craft beer and eating lunch outside Juniper Brewing Company on Main Street on a dining deck created by BGSU architectural design student, Jason Woodcock. Woodcock also helped design and build another parklet at Ground for Thought, incorporating a bike rack to encourage bicycle travel in downtown Bowling Green.

But beyond utility, these parklets have other benefits.  Kate Lochridge (a BGSU art and marine biology major) loves to spend time outside and has an interest in the ecology of her surroundings. She moved to Bowling Green in 2019 to attend school and developed an interest in the Great Black Swamp. Lochridge, hoping to foster an appreciation for the region’s natural history, created a winning design for an art-inspired parklet, or “artlet”  in front of Novel Blends, an independent bookstore and coffee shop.

The artlet’s railing contains illustrated carvings of nine different species native to the Black Swamp accompanied by native plants. Glider swings and benches allow visitors to sit for a bit. With the help of Aaron Rosa (BGSU art major), a sculptor, the project focuses on creating a unique, memorable space.

Novel Blends owner Michael Stoepler commenting artwork said, “I think the parklets are a wonderful addition to our downtown, and we are excited to help the community enjoy the new artlet— what a cool collaboration with Kate and Aaron and our University!” 

The Parklet Project

The Parklet Project is a fundraising effort launched in 2021 to help downtown businesses install the city’s first parklets. Along with support from more than 70 individuals and local businesses, this year’s parklets are being funded by a $50,000 grant through T-Mobile’s Hometown Grant Program. Bowling Green was one of 25 communities nationwide to be awarded funds through that program. 

This season’s parklet builds, directed by Ellen Fure Smith, a Parklet Project member and an artist and owner of Little Bare Furniture, with the assistance of Lochridge, Rosa and other students, faculty and staff from BGSU’s School of Art’s Integrated Studio.  “Kate is wonderfully talented and has been so much fun to work with,” said Smith. “She has made the Parklet Project so much better this year– and I cannot wait to see her designs on the street!”

To support future parklets send a contribution to “Downtown Foundation, Inc. – Parklets” c/o Jeff Dennis, PO Box 406, Bowling Green, Ohio 43402 or visit downtownbgohio.org/parklet-project

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