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The Food Court

Balitmore, MD


Urban Design

With take-out as an increasingly prevalent mode of dining out, restaurants and food retailers can encourage physical distancing while gathering by repurposing existing outdoor spaces as dining areas.

The Food Court transforms vacant lots into communal, outdoor dining garden. Wildflowers and tall grasses create a buffer zone between the mowed seating areas along a one-way gravel path. An easily assembled umbrella stand provides shade for dining areas and doubles as a light post for the evening. A hand-washing station at the end of the path encourages public health practices. In general, the planted areas of the Food Court increase stormwater infiltration, help reduce heat island effects, and add public green space.

The Food Court can be adapted to any number of vacant lots, implemented by a single dining establishment, or shared between multiple retailers. The plans shown demonstrate a typical application for a small lot and a large lot. There are five key steps to establishing a Food Court: 1) Clear and till the lot; 2) Stake the path 3) Seed grass, plant trees, and water; 4) Mow or trim back dining areas; 5) Furnish with tables, chairs, signage, and a handwashing station. Already grassy or overgrown lots can easily be converted by clearing a path and mowing seating areas. Furnishings can be customized or assembled with a simple set of off-the-shelf materials.