A parking space converted into Houston's first parklet brought a mini-media frenzy — and fun street party — to 19th Street in the Heights, where New Living artisans, city officials and community supporters gathered to officially dedicate the green space outside New Living Bedroom Thursday morning.
"This is a way to connect people — to the streets, to the sidewalk, to the shops," Mayor Annise Parker told the crowd. "The parklet provides a little respite in our busy, bustling city.
"I'm amazed to see so many media here for what once was a parking space," she added with a laugh.
"It's one single parking space that I was happy to give up," Jeff Kaplan, founder of New Living, said.
The 125-square-foot parklet, a raised platform with benches and shade canopy surrounded by planter beds filled with drought-resistant yuccas, was built by Made at New Living artisans led by industrial manager Jose Martinez using reclaimed materials from right here in the city — including 300-year-old wood salvaged from the old Mercantile building. Artisan Heath Brodie constructed the benches, while Jenny Janis handled the landscape design. The Ground Up provided the soil for the bed. More sponsors and partners include Sherwood Design Engineers and Bobby Goldsmith.
"It's one single parking space that I was happy to give up," Jeff Kaplan, founder of New Living, said. "I believe 19th Street is to become a major urban street in the city, and the parklet will provide a common space to gather, to rest, even a place where musicians can perform."
Staff members at outfitters Manready Mercantile will serve as park rangers for the parklet, and were on hand for the dedication decked out in vintage ranger gear while making S'mores over a Coleman stove. Participants enjoyed homemade paletas handed out by Trentino Gelato caterers. Acoustic guitarist Melissa Eason strummed and sang folk music to add to the atmosphere.
The parklet was once a parking space for New Living Bedroom, until Kaplan and Laura Spanjian, the city's sustainability director, began planning about a year ago to implement the pocket garden. Their inspiration came from Mayor pro-tem Ed Gonzalez, who actually presented the idea before the city council about two years ago.
"You'll find parklets in other cities, like San Francisco and Denver," Gonzalez said. "We want this to be an example for the rest of the city. We hope this will spread to other neighborhoods."
Councilwoman Ellen Cohen added, "Montrose wants one of these already."