Our Wellington

News | 11 March 2021

Parklet pop-ups embraced by communities

Craft sessions, backgammon competitions, DJs, and a lesson to tamariki on how to fix a punctured bike tyre, are just some of the activities that have taken place so far at Wellington’s three vibrant parklet pop-ups.

The bright yellow parklet located next to the pavement in Newtown, filled with 10 people at tables and sitting on the platform playing backgammon.

The community is getting behind Wellington City Council’s Innovating Streets project that aims to create lively, safe, people-friendly spaces in the capital’s central city and suburbs.

The nationwide initiative is being led by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, which is funding 90 percent of the project, with a total of 70 creative ‘pop-ups’ throughout the country.

They have been designed through collaboration with Iwi, residents, schools, businesses, and others who use the spaces on their streets.

In Wellington, there are three parklet pop-ups – currently located outside Bicycle Junction on Marion Street, Black Coffee on Newtown’s Riddiford Street, and on Allen Street in Te Aro as the Fringe Festival’s HQ.

The movable pop-ups will be relocated to other areas in the coming weeks for different communities to enjoy, with the potential of becoming permanent fixtures based on public feedback.

Bicycle Junction owner Dan Mikkelsen says the response has been positive, with many local residents and community groups frequenting the space and making it their own.

“While it’s outside our shop, we’ve been trying to encourage others to use it – it’s a place where anyone is welcome to hang out, and people haven’t been afraid to use it."

In the parklet, Dan has put the cafe’s largest picnic table, which stays out after business hours, and a piano among other things.

About eight young children wearing high-vis yellow vests working with paper and pens on a large wooden table, with teachers and someone playing a piano behind them.

He says a highlight was when the local day-care brought children to do their day’s activities in the space – and he identified a learning opportunity.

“I taught them how to change a bike tyre, and the kids helped me pump it up.”

Dan says as well as building community connections, the parklet had brought “life” to Marion Street.

“We and other people have really embraced it. I think it would be nice to have more spaces like this around the city.”

In Newtown, Black Coffee owner Carmel Levy has found the parklet outside her shop has been a popular spot for coffee drinkers on a sunny day. She says the community has been curious about the space.

The bright pink and orange pop-up has hosted DJs, a backgammon tournament, busking musicians, yoga, and stitch and bitch and sketching sessions.

She says she likes the idea of having a place where people can sit down and eat lunch from different eateries together, and where parents can play with kids, or take a break with the pram while doing the school run.

Carmel says parklets had been popular initiatives in other cities around the world, and she is excited to see how the pop-ups evolve in Wellington with different neighbourhoods taking the reins as they move through communities.

She believes the parklets could be good permanent spaces in areas where there are no carpark shortages.

Eight adults enjoying the sunshine as they work outside on their laptops while sitting on fake green grass in the Fringe parklet, surrounded by pink fence bollards.

The third parklet is on two carparks outside the Fringe Box Office and Creative Capital Arts Trust, with the trust’s chief executive Drew James saying the area is fenced and ground covered with fake grass.  

“During the day the space is filled with bean bags and shade umbrellas. It’s the only green spot in the whole precinct of Allen and Blair streets.”

The space has seen music and DJ performances, Fringe artist pop-ups, it’s been used as a painting space, and is a regular meeting spot for staff and pedestrians.  

Drew says some local businesses see value in developing a street culture and attracting people during the day when there is an abundance of spare carparks.