What a Parklet Looks Like in Downtown Houston

Rolled-in brick planters, some fake grass, a place to sit to sip your Starbucks: You’ve got yourself a park! Or, in this case, a seat-of-your-pants impromptu parklet, a li’l green gesture toward leisure and recreation where before there had been only the cool impersonality of curbs and the business of parking meters. All this stuff was set up first thing this morning — which just so happens to be National Park(ing) Day, devoted to pop-up experiments like this one — atop those 3 parallel parking spots in front of Frank’s near the corner of Travis and Prairie in Downtown, creating a like outlier just catty-corner from Market Square Park.

This is how it went down:


The parklet will be packed up and trucked away after 5 p.m., freeing up these spaces for the Friday night crowds.

Photos: SWA Group (reclining woman); Kerri da Silva, SWA Group (all others)

35 Comment

  • Too bad it rained on their parade.

  • I’m really surprised that Frank’s let them do that. They are not really team players. And I have a feeling that Frank’s wants downtown to stay crappy, and ugly.

  • Love it! BTW I believe its parklet, not parkette. Minor details!

  • These are all over San Francisco and I love them. They provide a great public space in some urban corridors. I question the location of this one given its proximity to Market Square, but I totally support turning some of the Main Street loading spots into these.

  • Honestly, I’d give anything to have this much time on my hands. Also a waste since they chose a day with a 90 percent chance of rain, but alas it was National I’m Have Nothing But Time Day So I’ll Do Something The Dumba$$”..this is almost as stupid as the Art Guy “stunts”

  • Please, don’t do this(parklet) no more.

  • @JT: Thanks! The story and headline have been updated.

  • WASP/Shannon, if you insist on being so pointlessly negative about everything, please save yourself the energy of writing it and save the rest of us the pain of reading it. Maybe try to find a website for people who are bummers.

    This is light-hearted fun, it looks like the people running it did a really nice job, and it is a nice re-imagination of the street. I’m glad it worked out (except rain), and also glad I had some fantastic Frank’s pepperoni and pineapple pizza for lunch. Good stuff all around.

  • When did we, as a society, get to the point that we feel we must encourage and applaud such pointless displays? And, as already pointed out, it is across from a GREAT downtown park! I don’t begrudge those who feel compelled to waste energy doing this, but we shouldn’t feel obliged to compliment them. Admit it, the thing looks stupid.

  • First off, as the article mentions, it’s a national day which was decided on quite a while ago. So, weather was not great today, but it is what it is. Second, this is not a project for people who have extra time on their hands. Architects and Landscape Architects aren’t known for sittin’ around twiddling their thumbs. It’s supposed to inspire people to get outside and enjoy and create public space. There aren’t as many organizations and firms participating in Houston yet, so hopefully it will get bigger every year. We wouldn’t want Dallas to have a bigger parking day than us right?

    Also, the parking spaces are determined by which spots the city allows you to use for the day since generally there’s a 2 hour limit downtown. And, let’s face it, it’s supposed to be fun! So yes, stop being a downer and just go enjoy it!

  • I think the point is they are showing it doesn’t take much space to make a nice public parklet. Doesn’t really matter where it is… imagine if most downtown blocksize buildings had one of these… that would be a nice thing. To say it is a pointless display just shows that you wouldn’t be the person that would appreciate something like that (which is fine), to assume that nobody would is down right ignorant.

  • I concur – WASP and Shannon are Debbie Downers. And where is ‘commonsense’? This story seems to be right in his complaint wheelhouse. Must be on vacay.

  • God bless these people, this is awesome. Declaring war on concretopia, and in the rain, no less.

  • @ Caneco: exactly, this is to show people what a little imagination can do to transform a bland space, whether it is a parking space on concrete or a bare dirt patch next to a building. Trust me, the people who put this together do have jobs and busy work lives.

  • These little artsy projects always bring out the hate because they put into stark relief how much more attractive and user friendly Houston could be with so little effort.

  • So I don’t like this, so what, that’s my opinion. It seems stupid, especially on a rainy day. I don’t complain about you’re opinions and say you don’t have a right to them. Stop being the blog police and maybe be work a bit on your bullying tactics, we all have a right to our opinion, that’s the fun of this site. So you and I disagree on just about everything, so what? I respect that you feel this is whimsical fun, fine, I see no reason to be uncivil and bully me because I see it as a waste of time, again, it’s MY opinion, respect it.

  • WASP, you obviously have plenty of time on your hands given your comment frequency.

  • My only complaint is that I won’t be able to check it out when I get home (Rice Lofts) after work today!

  • WASP/Shannon seems to have plenty of time to troll on Swamplot all day long…

  • Thanks @asprout, whew almost missed this story. Let’s see here… Something something artsy fartsy, something something commie plot. Done.

  • I text fast and have an iPhone with 4G, so sue me

  • Seems like some people would love to be outside, yelling at kids to get off their lawn. But, still being relatively young, don’t want to reveal their inner “crabby old geezer”. So, they find another, similar outlet for their emotions. :-)

  • THIS took an Architect and a Landscape Designer????? and this? took a lot of time to plan? That’s just not credible, I see better design in the garden furniture area of Lowe’s…seriously

  • Seeing these parklets makes me smile. They’re fun, and so what if it’s raining?

    @ caneco, there was just such a small space given over to a small park with trees and water on the open corner of the Houston Club/Skanska block; it’s now being used as laydown space for the building demo. It was nice while it lasted, and much more pleasant and used than the tiny parking lot that preceded it. If memory serves, none other than Chase funded it.

  • Anyway, back to the topic. So … is the point these temporary parklets to raise awareness, such that people will encourage their cities to make permanent parklets?

    If downtown Houston ever develops a sizable residential population, I would guess that such parklets would be an amenity that would serve a lot of people. Until then, well … not so much. OTOH, if residential critical mass is to happen, it would be better to get small pieces of land dedicated to that purpose sooner, rather than later.

  • While I appreciate this “tactical urbanism” effort and the fun aspect of the idea, the reality is that Houston needs MORE on-street parking, not less, including in downtown. It helps sidewalk-oriented retail and helps protect pedestrians. We especially need more of it on our commercial streets away from downtown, but our Public Works and Engineering Department doesn’t seem to agree.

    Small public space improvements like this are best done as part of corner “bulbouts” – I think they are doing this on Bagby in Midtown.

  • As a soon to be architect, I have to explain to WASP that this is meant to be a temporary installation. All participants began set up this morning and are taking down by 5pm. So, with little money and not much set up, I would say that did pretty well. This is nowhere close to the time and effort the funnel tunnel took since you seem to be comparing to that (though you weren’t fond of that either). so let’s keep that in mind. Hopefully as people become more aware of parking day, there will be more participants and more people to help.

    I think WASP is missing the point here and might be bored waiting in line to score the new 5G iPhone to post more comments on events and subjects they know nothing about.

  • Oh God for once I agree with WASP….this seems pointless. It’s almost like one of those stupid HGTV Design Star episodes where the contestants have to design a small space in 85 minutes. Do you really think this raises awareness with those who can make decisions? Yeah, it’s cute and all that but if you aren’t going to get in Annise’s face or have a direct audience with some downtown landowners, it is just touchy feely lalalalala stuff.

  • Thanks for all the comments Good and Bad alike. The main point of PARKing DAY is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat. From the looks of the responses above we have done just that. Success!
    Keeping all this in mind we choose the theme of PARK & PLAY, because it’s not worth it if it’s not fun! Yes it rained & yes it’s in front of a business that may not have been very happy to see us there, but we did it anyway. We constructed this before most of you woke up to sip your morning coffee. Not because we had TONS of free time, but because we cared enough to do it.
    Small minds discuss other people. Average minds discuss events, but GREAT minds discuss ideas! We are happy that this idea has been able to ignite all minds and for one day turn some focus on something we should all be very passionate about.

  • Is there really a parking problem? People in Houston seldom ever need to walk very far, or ride public transportation (excluding Park and Ride, a symptom of the “problem”?) to reach their parked cars. I often see people take 5-10 minutes to find parking close to a shop’s front door, instead of using a garage or quickly finding a farther spot and walking a few hundred feet. There are obviously a multitude of reasons anyone could come up with for parking closer in (time, health, safety, weather, etc.), but I reckon that most drivers, most of the time, could stand to benefit from taking a few more short walks each day.

  • My guess is that she relaxed on the outdoor recliner only long enough for the photo.

  • that little parklet looks like it had more funding than the annual budget for many of Houston’s small local parks.

    that’s the issue I see, not a lack of public space, but underutilized and underfunded park spaces all around the city.

  • I love the idea, and I wish we could work to discourage driving and encourage walking/skate boarding/biking/whatever, but something about this just screams “hipster” to me :(
    One way would be to get rid of mandatory parking requirements. Then maybe people putting in a new store could do something fun and creative with the front rather than pave it for cars. I walk or skate almost everywhere. Seeing so much land ‘wasted’ for cars is depressing.