Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

What's a ‘Spark’ and Why Should Pittsburghers Care?

Sparks are relatively young — the concept for them first popped up in San Francisco in 2005. They’ve just recently appeared in other U.S. cities, including our neighbors on the other side of the state.




A Parklet in San Francisco | photo via flickr creative commons

 

Two streets in Pittsburgh will be one or two parking spaces short this summer. This might irritate those behind the wheel, but it means good news for those on foot.

Those spots will instead be occupied by small parks, or “sparks” — temporary public seating areas that cover the area of a parking spot. They’re usually placed in commercial areas in the summer to encourage a pedestrian presence and economic activity.

The city announced earlier this month the two initial applicants for its Spark pilot program, which allows businesses to sponsor a spark; Bae Bae's Kitchen Downtown and Onion Maiden in Allentown.

Bae Bae's Kitchen is proposing a spark on Liberty Avenue with a roof and rain barrel. The Onion Maiden is proposing a steel and wood deck on East Warrington Avenue with benches. This doesn’t mean the sparks will serve as seating for these eateries — commercial activity isn’t allowed within them, and they’re meant to be used by everyone.

Sparks are young — the concept for them first popped up in San Francisco in 2005. They’ve just recently appeared in other U.S. cities.

Here’s a look at some other “sparks” around the country:

San Francisco
The official birthplace of sparks — or parklets, as SanFran refers to them as — is currently home to about 50 of them. The city began building permanent parklets in 2010. Many local businesses reported increased revenue after a parklet was installed nearby. A 2014 Pavement to Parks assessment report discovered that most respondents were satisfied with the social opportunities parklets presented.

Philadelphia
Pittsburgh’s older sibling is currently home to four of what it also calls parklets. They first popped up in 2011 and have performed well since. A University City District report found that Philly’s parklets tend to be filled at peak hours and appeal largely to people under the age of 34. People tended to use the space to eat or talk rather than read or use electronics, and parklet installation coincided with a boost in sales at nearby venues.

Chicago
The Windy City’s “People Spots” emerged in 2011 and now include about 10 installations. The Metropolitan Planning Council evaluated the impact of these spots in 2014 and found that about 73 percent of people at a People Spot said they would probably be home if the spot wasn’t there. A majority of businesses near a People Spot said they experienced more foot traffic, and 93 percent said one made the street more “positive.”
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in July

Lidia Bastianich Shares Her American Dream in a New Memoir

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein talks to the celebrated chef, restauranteur, television host and author about grandparents, foraging and the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States.

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

The Homestead Artist with a Worldwide Reputation

Jesse Best maintains a presence in New York and Tokyo. But, he says, Pittsburgh has been 10 times better to him than any other place.

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Sprout Fund Passes the Torch

50 Pittsburghers to receive $1,000 Legacy Award to carry on the nonprofit’s vision.

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Pirates Pitcher Steven Brault has Pretty Good Pipes Too

The Pirates reliever sang the national anthem Tuesday night before the Bucs hosted the Brewers at PNC Park. It's worth watching, especially for his teammates' reaction at the end.

Crime in the South Side Has Fallen Dramatically

Illegal activity plunged along East Carson Street following several new security measures.

Fired by City Paper — Charlie Deitch Won’t Be Silenced

The former editor of the Pittsburgh alt-weekly is creating his own "more inclusive" publication.

Czechoslovakia was Forged in Pittsburgh

Rick Sebak details how the establishment of the European nation began with a meeting Downtown.

Brick by Brick: Legos Go High Art

Made entirely out of Legos, the sculptures on the display at the Carnegie Science Center’s new Scaife Exhibit Gallery range from the whimsical to the otherworldly.

Mike Chen, Dean of the Chinese Kitchen

The owner of Everyday Noodles looks to encourage more regionally specific Chinese food in Pittsburgh restaurants.

MultiStories: Real Estate – The Machesney Building

Visitors can still ogle the lavish marble and bronze interior crafted to appeal to the original owner's banker and stockbroker tenants.