Council approves Main St. parklets
Project delayed until this fall
As the Delaware Department of Transportation nears the start of a year-long project to repave Main Street, Newark City Council has approved the installation of two mini parks – called parklets – alongside the road.
The parklets will be installed in front of Panera Bread and Newark United Methodist Church.
A growing trend in many cities, parklets extend from the sidewalk toward the street in space previously used for on-street parking.
The ones planned for Main Street will be the size of approximately two car lengths. Protected from traffic by
brick columns and metal fencing, the parklets will likely include benches and landscaping, though officials have not chosen a final design.
Tim Filasky, acting public works director, said the parklets will make downtown more enjoyable for visitors.
“We really lack any place maintained by the city for pedestrians to take a break, sit down or just generally enjoy the atmosphere on Main Street,” Filasky said.
The DelDOT repaving project, which has been in the planning stage for several years, will bring welcome relief to motorists who traverse the potholeplagued Main Street. It will include a full reconstruction of the road from Library Avenue to South Main Street, as well as a simpler repaving between Marrows Road and Library Avenue.
Previously slated to begin early this summer, the start of construction has been delayed until the fall. Workers will do the repaving one side at a time, block by block, in an attempt to minimize disruptions to traffic. Work is expected to be finished by Winter 2019.
DelDOT will fund the repaving portion of the project, expected to cost more than $10 million, and the parklets and other pedestrian upgrades will be funded by an $800,000 federal grant and $200,000 from the city.
In addition to the parklets, the plan also calls for the installation of several more bump-outs at crosswalks. Bump-outs – like the one currently in front of Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street – make it easier for drivers to see pedestrians attempting to cross the street.
A new crosswalk will be installed near the intersection of Main and Haines streets, and additional benches and bike racks are planned as well. DelDOT will also modernize traffic signals, improve curb ramps and upgrade drainage on Main Street.
The parklets and bumpouts will take up space currently used for metered parking. However, by standardizing the size of the parking spaces — some are currently longer than the recommended 19 feet — the project will actually result in an additional four spaces. That includes eight designated handicapped spaces, of which there are currently none.
Council unanimously approved the funding, but Councilwoman Jen Wallace expressed concerns about the safety of the parklets, explaining she feels it is unsafe for people to sit that close to traffic.
“I don’t see people wanting people to sit on benches even if we manage to slow down traffic,” Wallace said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
She requested that council discuss the positioning of the benches at a later date.
Mayor Polly Sierer replied that parklets with benches have been used in other places.
“I get frequent requests from constituents that they do want benches,” Sierer said. “I do know other cities do it. I’ve seen it.”
Tom Coleman, acting city manager, noted that the city is considering benches with “anti-sleeping” measures, essentially an armrest or other barrier in the center of the bench to prevent homeless people or other individuals from lying across on the bench.
An initial concept drawing shows what a Main Street parklet could look like. The design and location of the parklets has since changed.
More bump-outs similar to this one will be installed on Main Street to improve pedestrian safety.