Need an iron-clad winter weather forecast?
Forget about TV reports, the National Weather Service and the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Just Google Morristown and parklet demo.
Whatever date pops up virtually is guaranteed to be wintry.
After Tuesday, the town’s parklet planners are now 0-for-2. As in two demo tries, two snow-outs. The first attempt, in December, was canceled outright by the snow gods.
Planners soldiered on for a couple of hours this time, inviting hearty pedestrians into a storefront at 18 North Park Place before waving the (snow) white flag.
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Those who ventured inside found a parking-space-sized mockup that left a lot to the imagination. Sturdy interlocking floorboards and an umbrella stood in for a warm-weather “parklet”– a mini-park or café that planners envision occupying one or two spaces outside a South Street shop or restaurant.
“There are a lot of great parks and public spaces in Morristown. But they’re not always meeting people where they are,” explained Phil Abramson, from the town’s planning consulting firm, Topology NJ. “This takes a public space and brings it to the people, and to the front door businesses, so they can really leverage it.”
Anecdotal reports suggest parklets have boosted commerce in New York, San Francisco and Montreal. Morristown is searching for a downtown location to test the concept, working with agencies ranging from NJ Transit, the Regional Plan Association and Together North Jersey to the Morristown Partnership and Morristown Parking Authority, Sustainable Morristown and Morris Arts.
Once a location is identified, Phil said, the town will seek grants to fund the pilot project. The goal is to establish a blueprint and procedures for merchants who wish to sponsor parklets outside their establishments. A regional planner estimated last year that such sponsorships might net the town $25,000 apiece.
Such fees mostly would cover labor, materials, permitting, and administrative costs associated with creating and maintaining the parklets, according to Phil.
For the last year or so, town planners have been engrossed in the nitty-gritty of a new zoning master plan. (A public hearing is scheduled for
7:30 pm 7 pm on Jan. 23, 2014, in town hall.) That document is loaded with detail and stretches a decade into the future.
Parklets are meant to provide more immediate and visible results, Phil said.
A crucial question is how to replace lost parking if metered spaces are transformed into parklets for half the year. Street parking is at a premium downtown.
Ultimately, Phil said, merchants must decide what generates more business: 20 patrons lounging in a parklet, or two parking spaces for cars.
“This is an opportunity for choice, a choice that’s never existed before,” he said.
For now, at least, it’s also an opportunity for rock-solid weather predictions.
Together North Jersey wants your feedback on the Morristown parklet project. Surveys are here: