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Steal this Idea: Pop-up Cafes in Parking Spaces

New York's parking space sized pop-up cafes program will expand next year. Could your city be next?

It's not that New York does everything first, or even better, but when New York experiments, people (and cities) across the country take note. Case in point: the pop-up cafe. The temporary, parking space sized cafes were inspired and designed by the same architecture firm that created the parklet, which first debuted in San Francisco earlier this year. From the Architects Newspaper:

The concept is simple: street space is limited and valuable. To that end, New York has been evaluating whether the highest and best use for street space along narrow sidewalks is storing cars. Like a glorified Park(ing) Day spot made (semi)permanent and held on high, these pop-up cafés invite pedestrians to imagine their city in new ways.


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The model, which requires that adjacent businesses sponsor the spaces, has been so successful for both the public and private sectors that DOT Comissioned Janette Sadik-Khan plans to expand the program to 12 new sites next year.

“The Pop-up Café has been like night and day for our business, transforming a loading zone full of trucks into an attractive space that makes our storefront much more visible and accessible to potential customers,” said Lars Akerlund, owner of Fika Espresso Bar.

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And while San Francisco's parklets are innovative and charming, they might be a hard sell in places less willing to turn over valuable space for play. That the pop-up cafes are both a boon for local business and for pedestrians makes this program the kind of thing that could take off in public space poor cities throughout the country.

Image RG Architecture

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