Southside Bethlehem’s West 4th Street business district has a few street benches, but it should have a lot more. That’s why I’m putting together a volunteer group to build some tree box benches on a couple of weekends in July.
Sidewalk seating is so popular these days, and it’s a pretty cheap and easy way to improve a retail strip like 4th Street. Tree benches run the gamut from relatively simple designs…
…to more elaborate designs like these. My wood shop skills are pretty intermediate, but maybe some more talented people will want to get involved:
Why would we want to build sidewalk seating? Because it’s fun to get outside in the summer and build things, and because bringing more outdoor seating to the Southside business district is a low-cost, high-impact thing we can do to make 4th Street a more enjoyable public space.
If we do this right, these tree box benches will:
- Enliven the street space
- Give people more places to sit and relax, read a book, eat takeout food, etc.
- Improve the street’s appearance. We’ll choose a simple, attractive design, and maybe paint them if people want to go that route
- Drive interest in area businesses. A livelier street scene will attract more foot traffic
- Raise property values (a little bit!) and drive new business interest in 4th Street’s remaining empty retail spaces
- Provide night-time street lighting. We can put some solar-powered LED lights inside the benches that will glow at night
I want to keep this very cheap and simple, because I want to try to make a lot of these benches – 10? 15? I want to keep the number of wood pieces required to make one bench pretty low, and I also want to keep the design Ikea-level in its simplicity so that volunteers with amateur wood shop skills won’t have any trouble following the construction plans.
As for funding, I am planning to chip in, and a couple others have offered to chip in too. I don’t think this has to be expensive, but the cost of materials will depend on the bench design we choose. I’ve heard a couple creative funding proposals so far and would like to hear more if anybody has ideas. As for tools, I have a jigsaw, a sander, a drill and all the basic tools we need to do this, but we will need some more if a lot of people are going to work on this. I bet some of you have some better tools that you might be kind enough to let us borrow.
If you’re interested in helping out with the planning or the building, or have comments or advice, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a comment. I will be sending out an email in the next couple days to the people who want to get involved, so we can talk about the next steps and logistics.