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Heights Art District celebrates Houston's first “parklet”

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On Thursday July 10, Mayor Annise Parker joined Vice-Mayor Ed Gonzalez, Council Member Ellen Cohen, and Jeff Kaplan, owner of the New Living Bedroom in the Heights store at 321 W. 19th Street to announce the completion of Houston's first “parklet.” A parklet is a mini-park designed to occupy the equivalent of a single parking space. In this case, the area includes hardwood floors and benches, a table area, and canopies, framed with flower boxes, a delightful diversion for pedestrians, shoppers, or street musicians. Parklets have been in use in several major cities worldwide and in New York and San Francisco in the USA, but the parklet in front of the New Living store is the first for Houston.

At the administrative level, the idea was first suggested by Vice-Mayor Ed Gonzalez about a year ago.. Mayor Parker embraced the suggestion enthusiastically and Sustainability Director Laura Spangian helped coordinate the complex series of administrative steps required to change the use of the street for that space. However, all the costs were born by New Living owner Jeff Kaplan. The price was relatively moderate because the business already owned the wood and many of the necessary materials. But Kaplan said the major decision was whether to sacrifice a parking space for the purpose. He said that as a mattress store, his business did not need a constant flow of customers parking immediately in front. On the other hand, he stated he believed that 19th street will become the premier retail street of Houston.

Council Member Gonzalez emphasized the potential positive economic impact of having an additional attractive feature to the already-popular street known for its art galleries and boutiques. He also explained the program briefly in Spanish. Other support from the project came from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, and was designed by an industrial architect student from the University of Houston. Council Member Ellen Cohen who represents District C, which includes W. 19th Street, stated that she hoped more parklets would soon follow in the Montrose area.

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