Several years ago, Studio One Eleven assisted in a conceptual vision plan for “Retro Row” in Long Beach. Comprised of over 30 unique shops and restaurants, including an independently operated movie house known as the Art Theatre, Retro Row is an unofficial hipster hangout and a great place to try new ideas. The original plan was to improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity by adding bike lanes, sidewalk bulb-outs, and new trees but, unfortunately, there was no private or public funding available at the time to execute the vision.
Due to these funding challenges, Kerstin Kansteiner, owner of Portfolio Coffeehouse LLC and president of the 4th Street Business Improvement Association, resolved to initiate a parklet pilot program and worked closely with the City’s Public Works Department to make it happen. April Economides, founder of Green Octopus Consulting, analyzed the viability of parklets in several other cities (such as San Francisco and New York) and suggested the City “find” additional curbside parking to make up for the loss of metered spaces by reducing red painted curbs and loading zones. With the details ironed out, two successful businesses on Retro Row (Lola’s Mexican Cuisine and Number Nine Noodles) volunteered to own what would be the first parklets in Southern California.
In the spring of 2011, Studio One Eleven was commissioned to design both parklets. Community-focused general contractor JR Van Dijs Inc. was selected to construct the first one at Lola’s, and was able to complete the deck, planters, and railings in only three days. Since then, a third, more elaborate parklet has been completed for Berlin Bistro (owned by Kerstin Kansteiner), and a fourth parklet is in the works for 2nd Street’s Belmont Shore.
Berlin Parklet – Rendering
The parklets we’ve designed for three local businesses have been getting a lot of attention lately, and we’re ecstatic that it has been overwhelmingly positive! Media outlets from the local Long Beach Press Telegram and Grunion Gazette, to the regional LA Times and even ABC 7 Eyewitness News, have covered what will be the first parklets in Southern California.
Things are progressing quickly; the first parklet – in front of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine – was completed in only three days by JR Van Dijs, and the one and a half stalls that were lost have been replaced nearby through curbside restriping. Next on the agenda will be Berlin Bistro, and then finally Number Nine, with 5-9 permanent jobs anticipated in all! (For all the latest updates and progress photos, follow us on Twitter @studioneleven.)
Lola’s Parklet – Daily Progress (Finished Photos Coming Soon!)
These small structures are private investments by the business owners and do not utilize any taxpayer dollars, but we love the enthusiasm we’ve seen from the community. We’re hoping they will not only create more visibility for the businesses, but also lead to big improvements in sidewalk culture. We’re encouraged that these parklets will be yet another step toward making Long Beach more walkable, and we’re looking forward to watching the street come alive!
For more information, see our previous blog: Revolutionizing the Road – Parklets on 4th Street.