The City of Lethbridge has expanded its patio and parklet project city-wide in an effort to support public space enhancements. The program was previously available only to businesses in the downtown area. It allows businesses to expand outdoor seating by using city sidewalks and street parking spaces and was piloted in 2018.
“Throughout the last two years of pandemic we have really seen a huge increase in use as well as demand from our businesses both in our downtown and across the city,” said Andrew Malcolm, urban revitalization manager with City of Lethbridge.
The city has implemented a streamlined permitting system for businesses wishing to provide outdoor seating and has an incentive program. It includes 50 per cent matching up to $5,000 for the design and construction of major patios or parklets in the downtown and up to $1,000 for costs including plants, furnishing or barriers for patios or parklets city-wide.
“This year so far we have seen less interest from outside the downtown, but we are hoping this obviously sparks the interest and gets things rolling,” Malcolm said. He said the city spent just over $18,000 in 2021, of $40,000 allocated for the project. This leaves a a significant portion of the budget for this year, he said.
The original goal of the project was to improve vibrancy downtown, but it also helped support businesses throughout the pandemic, according to Malcolm.
“A lot of these businesses have been scraping by, obviously trying to balance out all the different restrictions over the past two years. One of the constants has been the ability to sit outside and serve people food outside,” he said.
Malcolm said the city anticipates more businesses reaching out to set up outdoor seating as the weather warms. He added more people downtown increases vibrancy and a feeling of safety.
“The spinoff of course is that once people are down here, they will start to appreciate and recognize small businesses in the downtown that potentially they have not actually been aware of before,” said Sarah Amies, community director at Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization.