RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Venture Richmond is starting a new program– “Picnic in a Parklet” — which will help local businesses adapt to Phase Two of reopening.

Parklets are outdoor patio areas constructed in the parking lane in front of a business. The announcement said parklets transform the currently underused space into a place where people can enjoy outdoor dining or wait pick up to-go orders, expanding the number of customers a restaurant can serve.

“Parklets have the potential to offer an attractive, comfortable space for customers to physically-distance adjacent to the business, which may be needed for a smoother reopening,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond.

The company said they are working in partnership with the City of Richmond to get business owners permitting permits for these new outdoor spaces.

“Honestly with what’s been happening, we need the help!” said Trey Owens, an owner of Soul Taco. “If it’s free, it’s for me.”

The program launched Thursday and will give interested restaurants like Soul Taco more space for customers outside.

“This restaurant specifically is 700 square feet including our kitchen so social distancing in here is not that big of an option,” another owner of Soul Taco, Nar Hovnanian, said.

Business leaders interested in temporarily converting on-street parking into a parklet should submit a request here. If it is approved, businesses will be connected with a certified architect from the American Institute of Architects Richmond Chapter for pro-bono parklet design services.

“We’re relegated to to-go’s and deliveries so this parklet would help immensely,” Hovnanian told 8News. Owens and Hovnanian were some of the first to apply Friday morning.

“We want people to come, enjoy it, have a good time in Jackson Ward, and really bring back the community spirit that’s been here,” Owens explained.

Nick Cooper is the president of AIA Richmond, the large group of architects who will be designing the parklets. He said they will lean on contractor partners for the materials.

“We think creatively, we’re problem solvers and so we can do many things outside of the four walls of designing a building and this is one of the many ways we thought of to kind of give back to our community,” Cooper said. “I hope if there’s x amount of businesses in our city, that all of them apply. So we can help each other, and lean on each other during these times.”

Parklet permits will be good for three years unless otherwise specified or revoked. You can read more about the project on Venture Richmond’s website.