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New dining space will enhance E Street downtown

A "parklet" dining area is installed over two parallel parking spots Tuesday in front of The Lofts building on E Street. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | October 10, 2012 | Leave Comment

It’s getting cooler to hang out downtown.

Over the past few days, a Bay Area design firm has been piecing together a parklet in front of Beach Hut Deli, Sugar Daddies and Thai Canteen on E Street that, once built, will introduce a new type of place for Davisites to meet up and grab a bite to eat.

The structure — shaped in a semicircle of stadium-style bleachers — covers two parallel parking spaces in front The Lofts building, 105 E St., over the old seating area, and unfolds from the sidewalk out onto the street.

“The old seating was so confined,” said Chuck Roe, who owns The Lofts and who fronted the cash for the project. “We always thought expansion would feel really good.”

Rebar Art & Design Studio, the firm overseeing the project, has installed a handful of parklets in San Francisco, which features more than 100 such creations.

The parklet in Davis will be the firm’s first outside of The City.

As of Tuesday, Rebar’s in-house fabricating team had finished the benches, which are made of recycled wood from the old Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley, and had laid down most of the new decorative sidewalk brick that spreads out into the street.

Rebar project manager Ari Gelardin said she believes students will feel comfortable in the project’s stadium-style seating.

“We’re anticipating that it will be a natural space that kind of is conducive to the way students interact with each other,” Gelardin said.

Large steel planters bookend the seating area, which will be filled with soil and eventually plants over the next few days.

The three restaurants that the new space will serve plan to jointly furnish the seating area within the parklet with new tables and chairs. However, downtown diners don’t have to patronize the three restaurants to use the parklet; they can bring food from anywhere, Roe said.

Roe and the three establishments hope to have the entire project finished by this weekend. Alcohol and smoking will not be permitted.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Deo Suwan, owner of Thai Canteen. “Hopefully, we get more business for the three restaurants.”

“It’s always been the longtime goal of the downtown to enhance E Street, with so many pedestrians,” Roe added. “This will definitely be something that people can point to.”

Of course, removing two downtown parking spots could raise red flags within the community. But Roe believes the benefits of the new project will outweigh the loss of the parking.

And, when the City Council first approved the parklet in late August, staff had fully reviewed the proposal to make sure it was compatible with parking goals.

“We’ll be evaluating public comments to see whether people feel that the additional open space and dining area is a benefit worth the loss of two parking spaces,” said Katherine Hess, the city’s community development administrator, in an email. “I don’t expect the parklet to affect vehicle patterns, but we would want to confirm that.”

The parklet is not a permanent structure. If the city isn’t happy with the addition, it does not have to renew the five-year permit it granted Roe in August.

Roe believes, however, that parklets are a trend that could catch on downtown.

“Let’s just try one, and if we like it maybe we’ll do more,” he said.

The city collected $750 for the project up front from Roe and will collect $100 per year for the next four years to renew the permit.

— Reach Tom Sakash at tsakash@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8057. Follow him on Twitter @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at tsakash@davisenterprise.net, (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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