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'Picnic in a Parklet' helping restaurants expand space during reopening

Posted at 11:03 AM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 18:30:50-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As Virginia prepares for Phase Three of the reopening, a new program to help businesses has emerged in Richmond.

'Picnic in a Parklet' is a new program aimed at helping restaurants and other businesses by creating an extended area outside of their establishment.

"The goal is to help provide additional space for people on our streets adjacent to the businesses," said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. "Customers can either gather there before or after a meal or take lightly packaged food out to the parcel and eat."

The program was created in partnership with Venture Richmond and the City of Richmond to help business with getting designs and permitting assistance for outdoor spaces, like parklets.

A parklet is an outdoor patio space, created in the on street parking lane. An extension of a public space.

"If that's something they want to move forward with, then we will work with the American Institutes Architects Richmond Chapter. The architects will provide pro bono design services for the parklet space... and we will help the restaurant owner file the permit application," said Hepp-Buchanan.

The American Institute of Architects Richmond Chapter is an organization made up of 400 architects and interns here in Richmond.

"I think a lot of credit should go to AIA Richmond Chapter, because they're doing some pro- bono work, that normally would cost a lot of money."

With parklets, there are a few rules to consider before starting the process. Hepp-Buchanan tells CBS 6 that the location and rate of travel on said street, would depend on if a parklet can be built.

Since launching last week, businesses across the city have reached out with interest.

"We're trying to do everything we can to make things easier. There isn't one solution for how to bring business back or how to make people feel safe and comfortable going to a restaurant. But I think if everyone does what they can and everyone take on a little bit hopefully we can establish some sense of normalcy," added Hepp-Buchanan.

Business-owners who are interested in temporarily converting on-street parking into a parklet is asked to contact Venture Richmond to better assess their needs.

Requests for parklets can be submitted through the RVA Strong website.

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