“Let’s meet at the parklet” was an oft-heard phrase around town last summer as friends and family gathered safely at the West State Street parklet built by Historic Kennett Square (HKS). This summer, HKS brings the Kennett community another great place to meet and enjoy all that Kennett Square has to offer—“The Greenhouse,” a brand-new parklet outside Square Pear Gallery. Whether parklet patrons grab coffee and a treat at Philter, Talula’s, or GFG, ice cream from Michoacana, or take-out from any of the town’s many great restaurants—or if they want to sit and read a good book from the Library or the Kennett Bookhouse or simply watch the world go by—they’ll find flexible and shaded seating options tucked into a beautiful herbaceous surround.
The construction process has inspired lots of curiosity among passersby over the past week as the Guardian Angel Home Repair team of Leo, Pam, and JJ Becerra transformed the corner of South Broad and East State Street. This curiosity, says HKS Executive Director Bo Wright, is a key part of the creative placemaking process. “People have been taking bets on whether the structure was built for Letty’s Tavern or for Kennett Brewing Company,” Wright says. “And the answer is neither one—and both! The parklet is for everyone.”
Creative placemaking projects like The Greenhouse cultivate a sense of place as they engage and connect people through the power of the arts. “The intention is to build community,” Wright says. “Fun and temporary solutions to meet needs or overcome barriers in the community—in this case, a need for outdoor seating and gathering space—help expand people’s perceptions about public space.”
Although placemaking might be a new term for some, the principles of placemaking have been gradually taking root in Kennett Square for years now. “When HKS started Third Thursdays a number of years ago, it was difficult for residents to envision State Street as a space for people, without traffic,” Wright says. “But the success of those events paved the way for weekly street closures for outdoor dining during the pandemic—and also for the West State Street parklet that HKS built last summer for customers of Lily, Philter, Talula’s, and Grain. Again, residents were wary of giving up parking spaces. But as soon as the parklet was constructed, the public embraced it. It was rewarding for all of us at HKS, as well as for our great team of volunteers, to see the parklet being used every day of the week by an intergenerational mix of residents and visitors. People were seeking safe outdoor spaces to meet one another, and it was heartwarming to hear stories of people who were meeting at the parklet for the first time again after months of quarantine and isolation. This community-building aspect is a key ingredient of the South Broad Street project as well.”
The location of The Greenhouse is strategic, too. “We also want to draw attention to, and celebrate, the arts in Kennett,” Wright says. If Kennett Square had an arts and culture quarter, its heart would probably be the block anchored by the American Legion Building, which houses Square Pear Gallery as well as the studios of artists Peter Willard of Trover Nine, Robert C. Jackson, voice teacher Suzanne Jackson, and photographer Rusty Nelson, as well as the offices of the Kennett Symphony. Just next door, 109 South Broad Street houses the gallery of Holly Peters Oriental Rugs and Home as well as the studios of artist Carol Lesher and musician Bryan Tuk of grooveKSQ—and the building is also, of course, the home of KBC’s craft brewery.
Square Pear Gallery owner and HKS Board member Corien Siepelinga spearheaded the idea of a parklet for the east side of State Street, and Square Pear Gallery is an anchor sponsor for the project. “The parklet last year created a lovely atmosphere that’s welcoming and invited people to stop and appreciate the beauty of our small town,” she says. “We loved drinking coffee on the parklet outside Talula’s. Spaces like this make Kennett Square feel like home.” She’s also looking forward to having a safe, attractive space for the parents and siblings of her art students to wait—or even to enjoy ice cream to celebrate their artistic creations.
The Greenhouse, which reflects the horticultural and artistic traditions for which the region is renowned, would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of Square Pear Gallery and Longwood Gardens. “Building a parklet is a lot like building a deck at your home,” Wright says. “A lot of design work and planning goes into it, and the cost of lumber has also risen exponentially over the past year. Parklets are fun and simple solutions for outdoor seating, but there is a significant cost involved and we’re very grateful to Square Pear Gallery and Longwood Gardens and all of our Kennett Blooms sponsors.”
The Greenhouse features beautiful plantings designed by Hilltop Garden Design, which will be watered in part by the runoff from the rain that falls on the slanted roof. The roof makes the parklet a great spot to sit even in wet weather. “The sound of the rain on the roof is amazing,” says builder Leo Becerra. Wright describes the parklet as “overflowing with plants”—and even more so as the plantings grow in and additional planters are installed over the next week or so.
The Greenhouse will give people the best window seats in Kennett from dawn til past dusk, with lights to welcome the warm summer nights and the illumination of an adjacent tree wrapped with lights for the holidays and turned back on for the summer.
There’s a certain poetry to parklets—places built for a season to set the scene for human connection. “Creating projects like this, that help make Kennett a more beautiful and welcoming community for all, is at the heart of our mission at HKS,” Wright says.
In addition to numerous individual community members, other business sponsors of Kennett Blooms include Arthur Hall Insurance, Bamboozled, Clean Slate Goods, Davis Accounting, Kennett Bookhouse, Soil Shepherds, Taste Kennett, Trover Nine Studio, and Yoga Secrets.
Historic Kennett Square makes Kennett thrive. We intentionally create programs and events that help Kennett become a more beautiful and welcoming community where all can belong and prosper.