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Minneapolis hopes for big impact from tiny 'parklets'

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Some new, but small, community spaces called "parklets" have popped up in a few locations in Minneapolis. As part of a pilot program, the city has installed three of these mini parks in busy commercial areas to encourage people to have a seat, relax and perhaps visit a nearby small business or restaurant.

"Parklets are a really simple, but extraordinary way to transform public space," Council Member Lisa Bender said Tuesday as she visited one of the parklets as they were officially unveiled, according to the Star Tribune.

Parklets are basically an extension of the sidewalk into the street. The Minneapolis parklets take up about the same space as two parking spots.

The parklet surface is a modular wood platform, and there's room in each one for a few tables and chairs as well as several planters, according to KARE 11.

Here’s a time-lapse video showing one parklet being installed at 212 3rd Ave. N.

The new spaces are available for anyone to use, but nearby businesses are sponsoring each one of them -- meaning they're responsible for keeping them clean and watering the plants.

The three parklets are located on Emerson Avenue outside Juxtaposition Arts; on Third Avenue across from Monte Carlo Restaurant; and on Nicollet Avenue outside of Spyhouse Coffee.

They will stay up through October, then be put away for the winter and return again in spring. But they may be in different spots next year; they'll be rotated throughout the city to different locations, according to officials, who add they may begin taking applications from businesses who want to sponsor a parklet next year.

Parklets may be new to Minneapolis, but it's a trend that's taken off in other big cities in North America in recent years. An article on the Governing.com website calls them the "next big tiny idea in urban planning."

The parklet "movement" began in San Francisco in 2005 as more of an art project. Artists from a studio fed a parking meter with coins good for two hours, unrolled some grass sod in the parking space and put a potted tree on top.

Gradually the idea of having more permanent park-like areas took shape, and the first official permanent parklet was installed in San Francisco in 2010. Now that city has nearly 50 of them. Some other popular cities for parklets are Philadelphia, Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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