Without direct Council action, the redesigned Park Lane will severely limit sidewalk patio dining along Kirkland's favorite street
Park Lane has been described as the "heart" of Kirkland by many. This little two-block stretch in the center of downtown is held near and dear by many locals. It is a tree-lined road connecting Lake Street with the transit center, buttressed by two popular parks, Marina and Peter Kirk.
But what makes it so special? To many, Park Lane reminds us of our favorite European streetscapes. Park Lane has been unique in Kirkland in that it has the combination of a central location, walkability, dining al fresco, shopping, on-street parking and slow moving cars. But something important will change when Park Lane opens next week to fanfare and to the relief of merchants and visitors alike.
The downside: Sidewalk dining will be severely limited. Yes, the renovation of Park Lane will fix some nagging issues like uneven sidewalks and utility interruptions due to overgrown tree roots. There is much to like about the renovations. But the impact of these improvements means that there is little room left for sidewalk dining.
The city is dealing with these issues and if we solve them correctly, Park Lane could be better than ever. If the city fails, we will lose one of the most cherished aspects of the Park Lane -- dining al fresco.
How could we lose dining al fresco along Park Lane?
The story is a complicated one. It involves several layers of government, city and federal laws, ADA requirements and the city's overriding charge to make Park Lane more walkable. The problem is, making this narrow street more walkable means removing the tree canopy, widening sidewalks and repositioning lampposts and planting new, smaller trees. The result is that restaurants are left with as little as 36 inches of width for their sidewalk dining patios. The impact on the dining al fresco will be severe unless changes are made by the city council.
City Hall has been made aware that Park Lane, as planned, is not quite what everyone had envisioned. The city is drafting plans for the council to consider that would modify city codes impacting accessibility along the street and allow for more sidewalk dining. Without council action, patio seating at restaurants like Mi Mexico, Cactus, Zeek's Pizza, Ristorante Paradiso and Lai Thai will be dramatically reduced or eliminated entirely.
So, the question is, how important is dining al fresco along Park Lane? We think it is central to the character of the street. Strolling down Park Lane on a summer evening has been a delight for as long as I can remember. The changes taking place now will improve our ability to walk the street but what is the point if no one wants to walk down Park Lane because it has lost its charm?
The next steps are up to the Kirkland City Council at their June 2nd meeting. The City will provide the council with suggestions on how to improve sidewalk dining along Park Lane.
We encourage the council to save Park Lane and to not allow such a significant loss of one of its defining characteristics. Sidewalk patio dining along Park Lane should not be lost. In our effort to improve walkability along Park Lane, let's not lose one of the key reasons we walk there.