One of the several businesses owned by the successful Lai family is the Fu Wah Mini Mart, on 47th Street off of Baltimore Avenue in University City, which sells organic dishwashing detergent, Vietnamese hoagies and rolling papers–basically everything the neighborhood residents desire. These days, a lot has changed at Fu Wah. For one thing, it’s unlikely Tina Lai, who just married Jeff Lurie, will be back behind the cash register on a regular basis. Second of all, there’s a parklet outside.
A parklet is “an innovative temporary seating platform that transforms parallel parking spaces into a place to sit, relax, eat and enjoy street life. Parklets are landscaped with planters and a decorative railing, and furnished with movable café tables and chairs.
In other words, it’s a pleasant, green-inflected, abbreviated sidewalk cafe (minus the cafe service) in a space normally reserved for gas-guzzling, environment-destroying, mechanical behemoths. It caters to the pedestrians rather than the drivers–who are surely a little annoyed when circling the block looking for spaces.
This year’s UCD parklets include the one in front of Dave Lai’s store; one at 43rd and Baltimore outside of the Green Line Cafe; 44th Street between Walnut and Spruce; and 4040 Locust Street. Though storeowners like Lai are not funding the parklets near their businesses–that comes from UCD, William Penn Foundation and the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities–they can certainly derive benefit from their presence.
In the case of the Fu Wah parklet, at least a couple neighborhood habitués don’t get the concept: a school crossing guard and another resident were yelling the other morning about how ridiculous it was that Lai put the seating there, seemingly under the impression that it might be illegal. UCD might want to add some signage.