The more I drive around, the more I see empty buildings, closed stores, and weed-filled parking lots. It’s understandable in today’s world, where so much commerce is e-commerce, and a growing number of people are purchasing everything they can – from fresh fruit to home entertainment centers – online. It is childish, and of course redundant, to say but I’ll echo every other writer in the world right now: the way we live is forever changed by technology.
And because of that, I must pose a strange scenario, if not a strange proposal: Can we now begin to change our concrete jungle into, say, just a plain ole’ jungle? Currently, I can go to any number of rural or urban areas and find a place to go for a hike, watch wildlife, or just read a book while grass fills the space between my toes.
But what if there were even more spaces like this, urban oases that allowed us in this futuristic world to ironically have even more green space. Take, for example, the areas in the Oak View Mall area in west Omaha. There are at least two very large buildings, with a empty parking lot five times larger, that could remain empty for quite a long time if not ever.
Therefore (and please allow me to think like a child for a moment), what if these spaces were allowed to be green spaces? Small, Central Park-type areas that could still provide our 21st Century creature comforts nearby, including a book store and coffee shop, but also fill the world with a bit more green.
Or even include a playground for kids would be an option. Playgrounds are a big deal worldwide, and a Google search on the subject reveals just that. You would probably find a few more smaller businesses that would like to be close by if an area like this was getting hundreds of visitors a day. It wouldn’t be totally green, but it definitely wouldn’t be the inside of a building, either.
“Okay, okay. Let’s build big playgrounds and grass fields in the middle of this city? Great idea, Kurrus. Just answer me one thing: how will money be made?”
It’s obviously a valid question. But much smarter people than myself are proposing sustainable city construction projects all the time, and grant money is being set aside for those whose proposals have the ability to come to fruition. So I think when decision-makers can get on the same page with a dollar in mind, some innovative solutions can be found.
But it’s still all pipe dreams, right? Well, not totally. There are more sprinkler parks in this city than there were when I moved here, and more places to see an outdoor concert than there used to be. There are also community gardens and private land being used by the public in multiple ways. So it’s not too far-reaching. Just the other night I saw the band The Counting Crows at the Pinebowl Arena in Pioneers Park in Lincoln. With evergreens surrounding the venue, the “bowl” portion of the area was nothing more than a grassy hill. At tickets ranging from $12 to $100 and several thousand in attendance, someone walked away with a profit.
It would just be nice to see a bit more green than some of the condemned buildings and empty parking lots that I see. But maybe it’s already started. I don’t see too many traditional malls being built, but there is definitely more shopping areas with the outside in mind. So maybe my thoughts are already behind the curve.
If not, I’ll just continue to watch the weeds in the cracks get bigger, hoping for even harder winters so those bulges become even larger, the greens becoming even greener.