COLUMBIA — Downtown is looking a little bit greener this week.
As part of the city's "Bike, Walk, and Wheel Week," the Department of Parks and Recreation has built a temporary "parklet" outside of Kaldi's on Ninth Street. The parklet will be there through Friday.
"This is a way to encourage nonmotorized transportation," said Mike Griggs, parks and recreation director. "Instead of using the space for one car or a few cars, this lets many more people use it throughout the day."
A parklet is a small man-made green space that converts parking space into a temporary park.
While the practice is common in cities such as San Francisco and Philadelphia, this is Columbia's first parklet.
The space replaces two parallel parking spaces and has benches, turf patches, live flower and plant installations.
According to Griggs, all the businesses on the block were supportive of the idea. The feedback from the public has also been largely positive, both in public and online, he said.
"I think something like this adds a lot to downtown. I think the experience of downtown is more important than the parking spaces," said Darwin Hindman, a former Columbia mayor who spent part of his morning "drinking coffee, reading, and people watching" at the parklet. Hindman has been a longtime advocate of parks and trails in the city.
According to Griggs, the long-term plans for the project are still being determined. While the city is planning to use the portable park for parks department events such as Family Fun Fests and the Fourth of July, it also considers options such as renting out the park or involving it in events downtown and around the city.
"As long as we have a flat space to set it on, we can use it," Griggs said.
Columbia resident Roddy Lavanga, who spent part of Monday morning at the parklet, said it provides a place where people can enjoy the scenery downtown.
"I would definitely use it," he said.
The project was funded through the operating budget of the Parks and Recreation Department.
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