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As New York City adjusts to its new normal, businesses of all sizes have been forced to revamp and revise their operating strategy. Thanks to NYC’s Open Streets initiative, restaurants have been able to keep their businesses afloat through the expansion of outdoor dining. Implementation of this strategy, however, is not without its challenges; space availability, seating and dining area buildouts, safety regulations, not to mention the weather, all combine to add complexity to an already complex situation. At CITIBIN, we know these challenges intimately, and we knew that we could help.
Our expertise lies in creating functional outdoor spaces through thoughtful design. While we were delighted to see and feel that palpable buzz returning to our city’s streets on weekends, we also saw opportunities for some great eateries to improve their dining aesthetic (we’ve all seen the stacked-cinder-block approach). So, we contacted the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District to offer our assistance. Fifth Avenue BID Executive Director Mark Caserta agreed that our planters could be easily adapted to meet Department of Transportation regulations for outdoor dining. Mark had the perfect candidate, Calexico, which happens to be one of our favorite Park Slope restaurants. “I knew (they) had a basic wooden box painted blue, but they didn't have any flowers, and they also needed more protection. Now they have planters with flowers, and anytime a restaurant does that, we appreciate it; it makes our streetslook better."
Working with the team at Calexico, we learned what they needed to enhance their outdoor dining area, and then adapted our planters to meet those needs. As manager Amanda Scala remarked,“the plantersare something we wanted from day one, both for the greenery and also to serve as a subtle division between restaurants. But the expense wasn’t something we were able to take on." So, in a rush to accommodate outdoor dining, the eatery hastily assembled a basic plywood structure, one that met the barest of requirements.
With CITIBIN’s partnership, Calexico’s outdoor space has been transformed. Cut and fabricated to their specifications, the sturdy planters (made from environmentally friendly, recycled materials), delineate and beautify Calexico’s outdoor space while ensuring the safety of pedestrians, motorists, staff, and of course, patrons. Additionally, our iconic bamboo cladding was installed along the face of Calexico's existing set up to unify the entire dining area.
The result? “They look fantastic!" said Scala. “As managers,we’re always so invested in the ambiance of the inside, so it’s great to transition that out to the street.” Founder Liz Picarazzi had a personal connection that provided additional motivation: “Before COVID my family regularly went to Calexico, so we were thrilled to help them set up outdoor dining. Small businesses in our community are helping each other in so many ways -- from donating planters to pre-purchasing gift certificates from each others' businesses."
The donated planters and cladding are durable and easy to maintain. With materials specifically intended for outdoor use, Citibin’s planters, unlike wood or metal iterations,won’tdeteriorate after a few seasons, making this a solution that will last Calexico well beyond the pandemic. The design ethos that guides our outdoor storage products is also evident in our planters; a clean, linear aesthetic harmonized with space optimization. And while this particular installation was designed for Calexico, the overall solution can be adapted by any restaurant in need of an outdoor dining kit.
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