Well folks: it’s official. We are opening an arts cafe in Northampton. How do we know this?
Hear ye hear ye! We made it In the paper! Click on the link to read all about the breaking news in Friday’s Hampshire Gazette.
But the story may not be exactly what you were expecting… So I’ll explain a little… We are creating a “Parklet” outside our building.
Two questions may come to mind:
#2: What’s a Parklet?
Well, it all started Here.
San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks initiative represents a collaboration among several city agencies (the Planning Department, DPW, and MTA) and local business owners / property owners. The goal is to transform street parking spaces into mini public parks, thereby enhancing urban beautification – encouraging communal spirit – and keeping the neighborhoods pedestrian friendly. These Parklets became wildly popular over our last few years in SF… I made many a wonderful memory at Fourbarrel’s Parklet (linked above) with conversations over cappuccinos with dear friends. The concept of changing unnecessary cement into a small escape from the daily grind is fantastic! And, beyond that, each Parklet becomes a blank canvas for controlled design experiments – everyone gets the same size parking spot and the ensuing possibilities are simply endless!
In Northampton, it’s a bit infeasible to reclaim a parking spot… The City is desperately looking to create MORE of those, not less! But there are still pockets of unnecessary cement – one of which is right outside our building!
—> Meet The Triangle. … A bizarre 150-200 square feet of obscurity, owned by the City but managed by no one. Everyone assumes its ours because a previous owner of 1 Amber Lane planted bushes and put in a small iron fence in this triangle. Later, when she sold the property, she deeded her bushes and fence to the City. I’m sure the City said, “Thank you” but immediately looked at each other and said, “Now what are we supposed to do?!”
Then we moved to town. And stared at this triangle for several weeks.
So we had a crazy thought… maybe we should put our cafe entrance on this side of our building. But a new entrance necessitates a handicap ramp… not on our property… and right out in the middle of everywhere noticeable. If you can’t hide the obvious, celebrate it… with a Parklet! <— Fitz’s grand idea for January.
So now for the details:
We met with James Thompson, the creator and interpreter of local maps (a romantic and under-appreciated profession!)… David Veletta from Department of Public Works… Larry Therrien from Northampton Fire Department… Carolyn Misch from Land Planning… and, finally, Wayne Feiden — the Director of Planning & Sustainability in Northampton. Each character brought out a different facet of the project, teasing the corners and folding in new information until the origami crane of Amber Lane Parklet emerged. But.. (to extend a completely unnecessary pun) our crane could not take flight until Wayne! He loved the idea (woo hoo!) and supported its vision and values because of how effortlessly our idea fit into Northampton’s own Pavement to Parks Program. Hey, who knew?! Apparently, they’ve been trying to get this idea off the ground for awhile and have – to a certain extent – but lack access to awkward pieces of cement and crazy business owners with good intentions and lots of vision. It was a perfect marriage!
So skip ahead a bit… the project was proposed to the Mayor who wholeheartedly approved… and was then pitched to City Council last Thursday evening. The night began with a public comments section where yours truly gave a 3 minute speech — at a podium — in front of a panel of Councilors — all about our vision for Amber Lane Parklet and how Northampton’s own vibrant downtown + San Francisco’s great Parklet history fed this beast of an idea.
It was unanimously approved with kind words from many Councilors. My favorites being…
“I just think this is absolutely wonderful,” said in an incredibly-encouraging-and-endearing-older-woman-voice by Councilor LaBarge (my absolute favorite Councilor!!)
“Parklet… now is that P-a-r-k-l-e-t-t-e?” said by the boisterous Councilor At Large, Councilor Dwight.
“I just wish everyone who moved to Northampton would bring a park with them!” said, with a twinkle in his eye, by Councilor O’Donnell.
So the secret’s out. Emme and Fitz are in Northampton to open an arts cafe. We’ve met too many people to turn back now.
Now we just need to do it.