Allentown will have one of city's first 'Sparks' on Warrington


The City of Pittsburgh has announced the initial two applicants in the 2018 Spark Pilot Program, creating small street parks outside businesses in Allentown and Downtown. 

A Spark is a small park or street park. It is a sidewalk extension creating a temporary, public seating area comprised of one to two parallel parking spaces. They are placed in commercial areas and intended to generate more on-street pedestrian activity supporting a healthy sidewalk culture and nearby businesses. 

The pilot – a project of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure and the Department of City Planning – is part of Pittsburgh’s overall strategy for creating safe, complete streets and new open spaces.

“The streets and sidewalks around our neighborhood business districts are often untapped resources. The Spark program is a new way for all Pittsburghers to think creatively and re-use public space,” Mayor William Peduto said. 

The city is testing the program with two applicants before opening the program up citywide. The initial two applicants are Onion Maiden at 639 East Warrington Avenue in Allentown and Bae Bae’s Kitchen at 951 Liberty Avenue Downtown. 

In Allentown a steel and wood deck with seating is being proposed in a space in front of Onion Maiden and neighboring Skull Records. It has the support of the Hilltop Alliance, the Allentown CDC, the Allentown Business District Committee (ABDC) and adjacent property owners. 

The project was first suggested in Allentown several years ago with the then Allentown Business District Manager Siena Kane, Sweet Peaches owner Bek Hlavach and the ABDC. Current Business District Manager Gordon Hall said the Onion Maiden’s owners were enthusiastic in their support for the project after taking over the location from Sweet Peaches.

There is currently no outdoor seating or dining in the business district and stakeholders are hoping the Spark will help attract new customers to the corridor as well as provide an outdoor gathering space for local residents and the neighboring Allentown Senior Center.

Mr. Hall stressed the Spark is a public space and although restaurant patrons will be welcome to order their meals inside Onion Maiden and bring them to the Spark, table service won’t be available.

We want the space to be available for everyone to enjoy, when the restaurant is open and when it’s not, Mr. Hall said. The Spark will be a seasonal feature, installed in the spring and removed before winter.

The estimated budget is $7,400 and it is planned to be installed next month. 

Bae Bae’s Kitchen is proposing building a small greenhouse with seating in a parking space in a short block of Liberty Avenue with dedicated 24-hour parking. The greenhouse will feature an integrated rain barrel for watering plants and feature movable tables and chairs. 

Kitchen employees will maintain the greenhouse and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will store the structure in the winter. The location of the Spark compliments the PDP’s Life on Liberty initiative, which seeks to prioritize pedestrian connections and safety, create dedicated transit amenities, reduce sidewalk congestion, and increase business opportunities in the area. 

The PDP and adjacent business owners and residents filed letters of support for the Liberty Avenue Spark with DOMI. The estimated budget is $11,498 with installation slotted for next month. 

Costs for the projects are covered by the applicants and their supporting organizations. 

Sparks are public spaces, meaning that even though a particular business is the applicant, they are designed to be used by anyone, not only patrons of the sponsoring business.

Other business districts, business owners, community groups and designers elsewhere around Pittsburgh are encouraged to re-think the way that their streets are occupied. Following the 2018 pilot year, the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure is designing a permanent Spark program, with applications for additional Spark projects planned to be available this summer.


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