Collingswood loves its park-to-go

A Collingswood woman reads in the new parklet, which will be positioned at spots along Haddon Avenue.
A Collingswood woman reads in the new parklet, which will be positioned at spots along Haddon Avenue. (ANDREW RENNEISEN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 26, 2013

It hasn't even been around a full week yet, but the verdict is already in:

Collingswood loves its parklet.

Then again, a week ago most people in town probably didn't know what a parklet was.

In the case of Collingswood, it is a mobile platform complete with tables, chairs and benches, faux wrought-iron trim, and a planter sprouting red and yellow flowers.

Paid for by the borough and the business improvement district, it has been a fixture on Haddon Avenue outside the Grooveground cafe since its debut Thursday.

"We've gotten nothing but rave reviews," Mayor James Maley said.

"We immediately drew a crowd," said Cass Duffey, Collingswood's community development director.

In addition to providing more public gathering space, it is hoped the parklet will give a boost to downtown businesses, she said.

The comments on the borough's Facebook page have been numerous and stellar:

"Awesome!"

"Tres cool!"

"LOVE IT."

Giovanni Caffarella, 33, a resident and musician, was enjoying the parklet despite Monday's heat.

"It's very West Coast-minded," Caffarella said.

How it came to be is very Collingswood.

Last year, the borough held a contest for local artists to suggest artwork ideas to grace Knight Park.

Then-resident Jason Miller knew of parklets in other places - Philadelphia, for one - from his work in urban planning. He said he designed one with a Victorian flavor that he thought would reflect Collingswood.

Miller's submission did not win that contest, but borough officials so loved his idea, they set out to make it happen.

The parklet's entire budget was $5,000, Duffey said. The borough's public works department built the parklet with some help from Miller and his father-in-law.

Commissioner Joan Leonard helped nail down the details that would make the parklet Collingswood-consistent - the flowers, the porch-like feel.

What wasn't fully anticipated was how much it would be embraced.

Leonard said she went by about 9 a.m. Monday, and "it was jumping. It's like a party on wheels."

Mike Snyder, a co-owner of Grooveground, said the parklet had been a draw since it was parked out front Thursday afternoon.

"Within a half-hour, everyone was just coming up to it in amazement," Snyder said. "I wish I could keep dibs on it all summer long."

But that's not the plan. About every three weeks, it will be moved to a different location on Haddon Avenue, Duffey said.

It will probably be kept in use into the fall, but winter revelers might want a place to sip their cocoa.

"It was real nice to be able to put something on the street that people were so responsive to," she said.

Who knew something just two parking spaces long could get so much love?


Contact Rita Giordano at 856-779-3893, rgiordano@phillynews.com or Twitter @ritagiordano.

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