Mayor Hosts Open Discussion on Parklet Potential
By Joe Bachman
“Absolutely nothing is set in stone…everything is on the table.” – Mayor Mike Wiza
STEVENS POINT — Mayor Mike Wiza welcomed city officials, business owners, and residents to an open discussion regarding the potential use of parklets in downtown Stevens Point on Thursday night.
Parklets serve as miniature parks, to provide outside seating to local area businesses. According to the city, business parklets would offer a “new place for people to stop, sit, and enjoy the life of the street.” As an important note, the city will not fund these parklets, but it the cost will be on business owners who would seek to install them outside of their business.
It is also important to note that absolutely no official decisions were made, and the purpose for Thursday’s discussion was just for open discussion.
Some benefits for the potential of parklets mentioned include increasing business in the downtown area, adding to the downtown music scene for special events, and adding a unique and modern feel to the area.
“It gives people something else to do. Right now there’s not a lot of opportunity to do anything else but shop,” said Wiza. “We want to create more of a social setting, and this is an opportunity to do that. If using a parking spot seems like a bad idea to some people, there’s opportunities to put something downtown in the area of parking spots, but not in parking spots.” (commonly referred to as “bump outs”, which is a restricted area at the end of a set of parking spaces)
However, questions were raised in regards to the fees attached for businesses to pay if they would decide to construct a parklet.
“What is the money being used for? …who is getting the money?” said District 1 Alder Tori Jennings, who mentioned that the profit margin for some business owners makes it hard to afford a parklet at all, much less the fees. “…It seemed pretty clear to me that there’s not clarity on what this is.”
Mayor Wiza answered that money collected from parklet fees would go to the city for upkeep on the structures, as well as administration. However, it brought a larger question forward from Sunset Point Winery owner Kathy Johnson on the issue of parklet structure vulnerability to vandalism. While businesses would pay fees for the space to use parklets, any damage caused to them would fall on the business owner.
“To do something like this that the city is not paying for — that I’m paying to create — the city’s not putting park benches there between planters, and maintaining them — it’s up to the business owner to do it,” said Johnson. “That concerns me, because any vandalism is on me, and the storage is on me. These aren’t permanent; these are temporary.”
One idea brought forth was utilizing the area around bump out spaces next to parking spots that aren’t used — and for the city to pay for them. It’s an idea that Wiza did not rule out as a possibility. The Mayor has shown flexibility throughout this process, and continued to welcome all ideas to the table.
Overall the idea of parklets seek to bring more residents to the downtown Stevens Point area, and further discussion is expected going forward on specifics of a potential program.