Suki Li, co-owner of Lily’s Asian Cuisine, officially opens the parklet with Mayor Matthew Fetick and Historic Kennett Square Executive Director Bo Wright.

by Tara Smith, for Historic Kennett Square

Those driving or walking down the 100 block of West State Street on Wednesday or Thursday this week will have noticed a bevy of activity. With the help of some amazing volunteers from the community, Historic Kennett Square has built Kennett Square’s first-ever parklet.

While the parklet concept is new in Kennett Square, parklets of all kinds have been popping up in cities and towns around the world for years—and particularly in recent months, since parklets provide additional outdoor spaces for recreation and dining.

Kennett Square’s West State Street parklet will provide an accessible outdoor dining experience for customers of four different businesses. “The parklet converts curbside parking spots into a vibrant community space and allows for socially distanced outdoor dining for Lily and Grain for both lunch and dinner service, as well as space for Talula’s Table and Philter customers from 7am to 11am,” says Historic Kennett Square’s Executive Director Bo Wright.

As Chester County began to move towards reopening, Historic Kennett Square surveyed local business owners to find out what could be done to help everyone, Wright says. “While closing the 100 block of East State Street on Thursday evenings and weekends works well for the restaurants and shops located on that block, the feedback we received made it clear that closing the West 100 block wasn’t going to work for the mix of businesses there. A parklet seemed the perfect solution—and thanks to municipal support and some outside grant funding, we were able to pull the parklet project together quickly.”

Volunteers worked this week to construct the parklet on West State Street.

“We’re incredibly grateful to all of our volunteers,” says Wright, “and in particular to Jay Malthaner, who put countless hours into surveying the site and designing and overseeing the project, and to MOBAC, Inc. and Leonardo and Pamela Becerra of Guardian Angel Home Repair for providing us with the skilled carpenters we needed to make this vision a reality.” One of the first challenges for Malthaner and his crew was to build a level deck surface with a ramp that takes up as little of the sidewalk as possible but is still accessible for all. In addition to Rich and Tyler from MOBAC, other volunteers included Bob Whitlock, Rick Pratt, Bob Hershey, Jeremy Peterson, Paul Gouge, and John Siepelinga. In the spirit of an old-fashioned barn raising, the parklet came together as many skilled, hard-working hands labored in the hot sun to help these small businesses.

“At first I wasn’t sure about building a ‘parklet,’ much less leading the build of one. But as I thought about it I felt it was a good idea for Kennett businesses and my design idea was accepted,” says Malthaner. “Now that it’s ready to use I am glad I had this opportunity—and in the process I met some wonderful people who became fast friends. I hope we will see many people come back to Kennett over the weeks ahead and this will be part of the ignition spark.”

Jay Malthaner, designer and lead builder on the project, discusses the initial stages of the design with Historic Kennett Square Executive Director Bo Wright.

Wright says the parklet couldn’t have happened without Mayor Matt Fetick’s Emergency Declaration and the support of Borough Manager Joe Scalise and Codes Enforcement Officer Rusty Drumheller. “It’s fantastic to see the business community and volunteers work together to adapt the sidewalk and parking area to add outdoor dining safely. Supporting our businesses and keeping everyone safe is the goal and our businesses are making it happen,” says Mayor Matt Fetick.

“The parklet has already been received very positively by so many community members,” says Wright. “In this time it’s especially nice to generate a buzz of excitement and to be able to build something tangible that helps our businesses and also tells a great story of community care and support.” He notes, with other business owners on the block, that in this time when the need for outdoor space exceeds the demand for parking, the parklet is a gain. In addition, he says, the recently expanded parking garage provides plenty of convenient parking for those coming to town to shop and dine.

Phil Cottrell, co-owner of Green Eyed Lady, built the planters and Dannie Wright designed the stunning plantings.

With beautiful planters built by Phil Cottrell, co-owner of Green Eyed Lady, and stunning plantings designed by Dannie Wright, the parklet represents a true “by the community for the community” effort.

Wright says the parklet will stay in place provisionally until November 21, allowing the restaurants to continue offering outdoor dining with portable heaters when the temperatures drop—as long as the snow holds off.