Masks On Doors Open: Paving the Way

Parking Lot Transformations

 As states continue to reboot their economies, and with warmer weather on the horizon, we have been thinking about what would make patrons feel comfortable heading back into the restaurant scene. Viral transmission rates are lower outdoors, and many restaurants have extra outdoor space that could be converted to more profitable use. Parking takes up more square footage than you realize – each space when including drive aisles can take up to 396 square feet. Would you convert a parking lot to a socially distant dining room? There’s nothing more inviting than soaking up some sun while dining outside when the weather is nice.

Pre-Covid 19 we had been exploring this idea for smaller-scale interior restaurants that needed to expand their capacity. This Shake Shack in Portland planned to take an old parking lot/Vitamin Shoppe and convert it to an expansive outdoor patio. Here are some of those design inputs.

Existing building and parking lot

Shake Shack Case Study

Originating in San Francisco, the term Pocket Patio refers to the conversion and re-purposing of space into an area promoting community and public gathering. Aria Group directly applied this rapidly emerging urban approach when designing this Shake Shack in Portland.

All elements of the outdoor patio were designed to integrate seamlessly with the design of the Shake Shack building itself. Colors, materials, and finishes remain consistent with the entire building program’s intent, including simple modern lines, warm industrial finishes, and signature Shack string lights for ambiance. The patio will feature picnic-style dining tables with shading umbrellas, geometric stadium steps surrounding a concrete ping pong table, and a covered dining section right off the main building. In support of Portland’s cycle-friendly culture and its green benefits, the Shack patio space will also feature built-in short term bike racks that can store over 30 bicycles at a time. The entire outdoor space includes built-in landscaping as well as mobile planters in an effort to incorporate greenery into an otherwise stark, urban setting.

Shake Shack – Portland: A landscaped patio instead of parking.

A Shift in Perspective

The re-opening of America will continue to be a gradual process. It will require everyone to work together by practicing social distancing and other public health strategies to reduce our risk of exposure to the virus. Adjustments in the design of public space are already underway to ensure a safe comeback to public life. The parking lot-to-patio idea is one of several design initiatives that can help support social distancing efforts by creating more public space in the outdoors. What underutilized spaces can you think of? How can these areas be transformed to promote a socially and physically healthier environment? With a shift in perspective and a little creativity, the possibilities are endless.

Shake Shack – Portland: Patio dining and outdoor games