Two restaurants in downtown Frederick could begin serving diners in what now are parking spaces along North Market Street.
The pilot project, spearheaded by the Downtown Frederick Partnership, would allow Brewer’s Alley Restaurant and Brewery and Moxie Cafe to construct “parklets” in spaces outside their restaurants to be used in August. Both restaurants volunteered to test the program, which eventually could expand to other eateries.
The parklets are raised platforms about the height of a curb that fit inside parking spaces, with space for restaurant customers on top. The parklets have been used in several major cities across the country, such as San Francisco and New York, according to Kara Norman, president of the partnership.
For safety reasons, the structures would have a 2-foot buffer from adjacent parking spaces and Market Street traffic. Additionally, planters and fencing would help create a barrier between diners and traffic, Norman said.
Restaurant owners would be responsible for upkeep of the area and for the cost of building the platforms, which would be mobile in case they needed to be moved for street or water main repair.
Norman could not estimate the cost of the platforms.
Although she said she understood a fee being put in place for the parklets in the future, Norman asked the city not to create a fee for the installation during the pilot program.
Depending on the results at the two test spaces, the project could be expanded and include more restaurants next year. The temporary platforms only would be open during spring and summer.
“We thought keeping it to two [restaurants] and testing this in real life would be good,” Norman said.
Aldermen Shelley Aloi (R), Michael O’Connor (D) and Karen Young (D), who are members of the city’s streets and sanitation committee, all voiced their approval Tuesday for the pilot. However, aldermen raised questions about the loss of downtown parking spaces and the potential danger of customers eating closer to traffic.
“It will be controversial,” Young said. “But it’s easier to support a test where you look for some concerns.”
Because it’s a pilot program, the city’s legal staff will write an agreement about the project, which might be able to be signed without full approval of the Board of Aldermen. If the project were to be rolled out further, it would require an ordinance from the city.
Elin Ross, owner of Moxie Cafe, which currently has outdoor tables, said she looked at the project as part of building a community on the north end of Frederick and drawing customers and foot traffic to the area.
“Anything that draws people to the north end in a positive way [is a good thing],” she said.
Ross said she hoped to build her platform for free with volunteer labor and scrap materials.
“I have a very creative and dedicated group of people — I have no doubt for the price of homemade pizza and beer I can get them to help,” she said, laughing. “That’s part of community building for us as well.”
Reaction from residents in the area seem mixed.
Truby Lagarde, the coordinator for Neighborhood Advisory Council 11, which covers most of Frederick’s downtown, said some residents were concerned about parking, while others looked forward to the new eating area.
“[Parking] keeps getting tighter and tighter for those of us who live with it day in and day out,” she said. “But there were also a number of people who thought ‘Great idea!’”
At least one Brewer’s Alley customer said he would be interested in eating in the parklets, but wondered about the ambiance of the area. Michael Givens of Frederick said he probably would not want to spend a lengthy amount of time in the area.
“I think I’d sit out there,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t have a meal, but I’d sit out there and drink and have appetizers on a weekend night.”