Second Street is one lane skinnier west of Main Street.

After approval in early June, parklets have been installed on the north side of Second Street in Taylor within the block between Talbot and Main streets. Parking has also been restriped angled and corners have been adjusted as part of a demonstration project from the Downtown Master Plan.

What is a parklet?

A parklet is an area licensed for use by a business or property owner to create an outdoor area for patrons and the public. Parklets are placed on part of a public street’s right-of-way, typically parking spaces.

“It is something that is related to the situation that we find ourselves in related to COVID-19 and the need to help businesses provide some additional outdoor seating space,” said Tom Yantis, assistant city manager, at a May city council meeting. “While it would really apply across town, primarily in downtown is where it would be of benefit.”

City staff researched how other cities have used public right-of-ways for parklets. San Marcos adopted their parklet ordinance in 2015 and recently updated it to allow more flexibility due to COVID-19. Dallas also recently established a temporary parklet program in response to COVID-19.

To learn more about parklets from city staff and hear comments from the Taylor City Council, watch their discussion below.

When was this approved?

The City Council held a public hearing for an ordinance that introduced the parklet program May 28. City staff recommended the ordinance, which was approved by the council June 11.

The demonstration project, which pertains toward parking changes and corner "streetscaping" surrounding the parklets, was approved May 28.

Who incurs what costs?

Costs incurred for each parklet project such as safety, lining and barriers are the responsibility of parklet requestors.

Yantis also noted that people or businesses requesting a parklet have to carry liability insurance coverage and name the city as an additional insurer.

Regarding the demonstration project, the assistant city manager said that the cost was in range of about $5,000. Funds for the project were expected to come from a 2013 bond sale allocated for downtown street improvements.

Where is this prohibited?

Scroll down for more on this story.

Parklets will not be allowed on Main Street since the road is also State Highway 95 and controlled by TxDOT.

“(TxDOT) currently do not have a program that allows for these,” said Yantis at the May 28 meeting, “although I know that there are a number of cities that are trying to get TxDOT to work with them in their downtown areas to allow this sort of program.”

Why was parking and corners affected?

The root of noticeable Second Street adjustments come from the Downtown Master Plan adopted in 2015.

“The Downtown Master Plan includes a lot of recommendations for how to revitalize downtown,” said Yantis, “but one of the key pieces of it is the physical improvements to the streets and the streetscapes in downtown.”

A section in the plan is called Signature Street Opportunities, which include Second Street.

“What the master plan calls for is reducing the number of travel lanes on the Second Street from current four to three which would be one in each direction with a turn lane,” said Yantis, “and then also reconfiguring the parking layout on the north side of Second Street from parallel parking to angled parking.”

In lieu of moving ahead with complete adjustments detailed in the plan, discussions led to the demonstration project in the one block of Second Street, which are now placed. City staff recommended using temporary, inexpensive materials for the preliminary improvements. 

Is this temporary?

Regarding the parklets themselves, the program is set to expire in September, at which time the parklets could be removed. However, Yantis noted that other cities have renewable programs.

“You want to always be evaluating the effectiveness of the program,” he said, “and not have those licenses last so long that you couldn’t remove them if need be.”

Mayor Brandt Rydell said in May that parklets allow another way for consumers to confidently patronize a business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parklets could provide more social distancing in an open-air environment.

“I think this is an exciting program. This has been initiated by some cities but you’re not seeing a lot of this,” said Rydell, “so in some ways, Taylor is going to be kind of taking a lead position along with some of our sister cities who’ve been doing this already, and I’m very curious how this is all going to play out, but I think this is a good step.”

As for the other visible changes, results and local feedback is expected to be evaluated before making any changes permanent and expanded.

For more on the Second Street discussion including questions from the council, watch below.

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