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Looking down Park Lane during the daytime

Kirkland’s Living Street: 5 Reasons to Visit Park Lane

Woonerf.

It’s one of those foreign expressions so singular in its meaning that there is no direct English equivalent. Loosely translated, the Dutch-born word means “living street,” and the concept behind it is what drove Kirkland’s reinvigoration of Park Lane in the historic heart of the city.

Stemming from ideas harvested out of community forums and backed by arborists and geotechnical engineers, the city of Kirkland reinvented the one-sixth-mile stretch into a flexible urban corridor. Designed for walkability, sustainability, and sociability, the goal was to make a street that people would go to, rather than just through.

Since the new Park Lane debuted in the summer of 2015, the plaza-style streetscape has soared in popularity with its vibrant eateries, shops, and art galleries that are distinctly Pacific Northwest. Just last fall, it was named one of the top five streets in the nation by the American Planning Association. Here, five reasons to visit this two-block stretch of quintessential Kirkland, located just a mile north of The Woodmark Hotel.

A Dynamic New Space

A view down Park Lane at night in Kirkland, Washington

Photo: Merrill Images 

Living in such proximity to a wealth of natural beauty, the residents of Kirkland value the preservation of their local ecosystems. Adding to this notion and the unique nature of Park Lane is its classification as a sustainable street.

Urban planners revamped Park Lane’s infrastructure with permeable pavers and bioretention planters — otherwise known as “micro wetlands” — to clean 100 percent of runoff before it reaches the lake in a filtration process that mimics nature.

Gone are the sidewalks, swapped with 36,000 square feet of color-coded pavers thoughtfully optimized for foot traffic. Gone, too, are the struggling trees once speckling the lane, exchanged with a vegetative canopy of 56 diverse trees and plinths supporting sculptures from local artists.

Not just pedestrian-friendly, but pedestrian-focused, Park Lane can easily be made car-free for festivals and other special events — most of which are completely free to enjoy. Apart from the live music one may encounter at any given time, the street plays host to monthly wine walks, including Kirkland Uncorked in the middle of July.

Parks

Marina Park in Kirkland, Washington

Photo: Tradnor via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY

Once known as Commercial Avenue, Park Lane was aptly renamed in the late 1960s, likely for the lush parks bookending it to the east and the west.

Charming as they are serene, these green spaces add even more appeal to the vicinity surrounding Park Lane. Named after the city’s founder, Peter Kirk Park features a baseball field, public library, swimming pool, tennis courts, and a teen center — and just two blocks west, the award-winning Marina Park hosts community events throughout the year.

During Kirkland’s Wednesday Market season, for instance, which starts on the first Wednesday in June and runs through September, dozens of local vendors converge on the waterfront park, selling food and other wares from pop-up tents in a farmers-market-style bazaar. And in the summer months, the grounds become the stage for a weekly concert series highlighting local artists.

Art

The front facade of Parklane Gallery in Kirkland, Washington

Photo: Parklane Gallery 

Framed by majestic mountain ranges and a sprawling lakeside vista, Kirkland radiates with the inspirational beauty of the Pacific Northwest. It’s not surprising then that this eastside suburb of Seattle is a bastion for eclectic expression manifesting itself in many forms, with Park Lane and the surrounding streets serving as the epicenter of the city’s art scene.

Strolling down the lane, you may notice a scattering of pillars showcasing seasonal sculptures from regional artists — like the six Pareidolia People structures unveiled last July by engineer and artist Ed McCarthy. Remaining on Park Lane until next July, these sculptures aim to inspire visitors to “reflect on their place in urban dwellings as well as their relationship to each other while navigating the city.”

In the core of the plaza, the artist-owned and -operated Parklane Gallery is a nonprofit and creative collective featuring work from dozens of local sculptors, painters, and photographers. Just a stone’s throw away, the critically and popularly acclaimed Kirkland Arts Center is a professional nonprofit gallery featuring both established and emerging artists.

On the second Friday of every month, you can see the city’s creative spirit on display at the Kirkland Art Walk. Spanning from Market Street to the Kirkland Arts Center (with Park Lane’s exhibitions right in the middle), it features a rotating roster of local artists specializing in many mediums like music, painting, sketching, sculpting, artisanal metalwork, and even magic.

Restaurants

Customers eating and drinking on the patio at Cactus in Kirkland, Washington

Photo: Geoffrey Smith

With expanded outdoor seating for restaurants along the street — including 34 new sidewalk café seats with bistro tables — Park Lane provides ample opportunity to enjoy your meal al fresco while taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling street.

For a true taste of Cascadia, including local beer and wine, head to Park Lane Public House, a neighborhood gastropub serving up flatbreads, burgers, seafood, and pasta. Stop in during their happy hour from 2 to 6 pm daily for discounted drinks and bites, including a cup of prized bacon-infused Pacific Northwest chowder.

Right next door, 15-year downtown mainstay Cactus Kirkland is acclaimed for their homemade tortillas and award-winning margaritas. A native to nearby Seattle, the restaurant centers their Southwestern, Mexican, and Spanish cuisine around Pacific Northwest ingredients.

Those seeking an authentic Italian dining experience should visit Ristorante Paradiso on Park Lane’s western end. Started by a chef from Sardinia, the establishment radiates with old-time Italian ambiance and offers a large collection of wines to complement local seafood, classic pasta dishes, and homemade bread that’s always served hot and fresh from the oven.

To satisfy that sweet tooth, check out the rotating flavors of Sirena Gelato, available in cone or cup, and if you’re a fan of macarons, Lady Yum sits just around the corner. On top of several staple offerings — including chocolate mint, raspberry chardonnay, and espresso fudge — the treat parlor offers a rotating selection of flavors both seasonally and monthly, as well as their appropriate counterparts in wine and champagne (because everyone knows a macaron goes best with a glass of bubbly).

Boutiques

Ragamoffyn's Boutique in Kirkland, Washington

Photo: Merrill Images

Each independently owned and exuding a unique personality, Park Lane’s boutique stores not only reflect the spectrum of style admired by Kirkland’s discerning locale; they appeal to the tastes of savvy visitors as well.

Fusing the styles of eastern and western cultures, Simplicity Décor is an interior design shop venerated for its unique selection of home décor and accessories — though you can also find handbags, games, books, and various gifts. Right across the street is IVY Gift and Home. Specializing in high quality furniture, gifts, and home accessories, this boutique sources around 80 percent of their wares from skilled artisans throughout the United States.

For one-of-a-kind clothing, bath and body supplies, accessories, jewelry, handbags, and fragrances, check out Hepburn, and for even more accessories, as well as gifts, candles, and shoes, step into Essentials on Park Lane, located just to the north.

To expand your wardrobe while shopping for a cause, head one block further north to Purpose Boutique on Central Way. Specializing in personalized style advice within ethically-sourced brands, this shop donates a portion of all proceeds to Rescue: Freedom International — a nonprofit fighting human trafficking. And if you’re on the hunt for vintage clothing, circle back around to Absolutely Fabulous to complete your tour of Park Lane.

 

Featured Photo: Barbie Young

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