Three restaurants in the heart of downtown Lakeland have been selected to expand their outdoor seating into “parklets” along the street. They are Frescos Southern Kitchen, Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille and Nineteen61.

Lakeland’s parklets will be an extension of the sidewalk that takes over adjacent parking spaces to provide additional outdoor seating.

A parklet example in Australia:

The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority got approval from the city of Lakeland on Nov. 18 to move forward with the project and they hope to have the three sites finished by the end of 2020.

“We’ve actually been talking about parklets for a couple of years,” LDDA Executive Director Julie Townsend said. 

The LDDA board voted in May to launch a $30,000 pilot program to test the parklet idea. The program offers three $10,000 grants for the chosen businesses to construct a platform that will take the place of up to three selected parking spots in front of the business to add more space for outdoor seating. 

“The business has to have insurance for parklets, just like a sidewalk cafe,” Townsend said. 

These parklets will be permanent and will not be removed for events downtown such as First Fridays or the Downtown Farmers Curb Markets. 

Per the safety guidelines, the platforms must be built to be removable in the case of a utility issue where the city needs to drill into the street below. The constructed parklets will be set back two feet away from the traffic lanes and each one will be ADA compliant. 

“People who are driving by or walking through the downtown area like to see energy and activity on the streets,” Townsend said. 

Four restaurants applied for the grants. Frescos Southern Kitchen, Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille and Nineteen61 were selected to be the pilot businesses because of their expressed interest and that they are full-service restaurants, Townsend said. She declined to name the fourth applicant.

In the future, Townsend hopes to see parklets emerge in other parts of downtown so that people realize that the downtown area is bigger than just the blocks surrounding Munn Park. 

“I think the other businesses are going to wait and see what these three businesses say in terms of the added economic value because it’s going to cost the next guy probably more than it costs these three to be our guinea pigs,” Townsend said.

The full costs for the parklets has not been calculated yet and any excess funds could go toward a fourth parklet, Townsend said.

Owners or managers at the restaurants have not responded to LkldNow’s request for comments.

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