The Borrowed Park
A friend recently forwarded Allison Arieff’s latest post to me from her New York Times blog, By Design. The entry touched upon private, for-profit land banking, a practice that involves a developer acquiring land in an underdeveloped region, usually for the purpose of gaining profit through reselling at a much higher value. The rise in value of the land is mostly attributed to an increase in population growth within the surrounding region, resulting in the demand for development. In its public form, land banking has been an effective tool in fighting blight, preserving open space, and implementing many other smart growth ideals. But in the case of private land banking, it has often led to the creation of uninviting, empty lots and blank pavement – hardly the type of scene that people like to frequent.
But a new approach to dealing with these vacant lots is spreading throughout the country, partly thanks to an initiative that began in San Francisco called “Pavement to Parks.” The general idea is that new, low-cost features are added to the empty pavement, as a means of transforming the space into a welcoming, recreational environment. On each project, community residents come together to beautify the landscape in different ways – sometimes adding large potted plants, other times painting the asphalt.
Arieff highlights a few reasons for why these projects are so successful. First, they are swift and require little cost; volunteers come together for an afternoon and provide small transformations to the area. Second, the projects create a sense of community by not only creating a gathering space, but also by bringing local residents together for a common cause. Finally, the private developer does not lose out, as the space is leased out to the municipality for an alloted period of time. The newly-created park is, in a sense, borrowed.
Post your thoughts about this concept below or send us your comments through e-mail.