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.

About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on September 29, 2009, in Media Coverage, Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Trends and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The opposite of Big Yellow Taxi: Borrow Parking Lot, Put Up a Paradise!

  2. I’ve actually been thinking about a similar project idea for a few weeks now regarding the area in front of the Bank of America building at Broad and New Sts. in downtown Bethlehem. There’s the big open plaza area right outside its doors overlooking a smaller plaza that is totally empty. Do you know the area I’m talking about? What if the city put a bunch of metal tables and chairs in those spaces to encourage downtowners to sit out and eat lunch or just enjoy the street space. That 70’s-modern style building (Suntron, or something, what’s it called?) really limits what can be done to improve that block since all the retail is inside of it, out of view of pedestrians, but some planters or trees and some tables could help humanize the space. Also, at the other end near the Starfish Brasserie, there’s a long ramp leading to a storefront or something at the bottom. I’ve often thought that would be a great place to put some outdoor seating for maybe a restaurant or something down there.

  3. Speaking of open space, does anyone know whats going on with the Queen City Airport? It doesn’t seem like there is much activity there and seems like good location for a number of uses.

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