A few years ago I lived in a house on 5th north in Provo. One of the most marking things that happened during my time in that house was the demolition of the Joaquin School, which was just across the street. It was pretty amazing to see an enormous excavator ripping whole trees out by the roots and knocking down three story walls in a single swipe.
As impressive as the destruction was, it was also fairly tragic. Though the Joaquin School itself hadn’t been used for a few years at that time, the very large grassy area around it was used as a park by the community. The property also had numerous large trees surrounding it. Those trees that were too big to simply pull out by the roots were cut down later. Bafflingly, the construction company even cut down the old trees that lined the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street.
As sad as it was to see this parcel of land decimated, the plan was for a construction company to build a new student housing development on it. The housing development was supposed to provide living spaces for a large number of students, and, at least at the time, promised to include some new open grassy areas for people to use.
That was in 2006. Now, it’s 2009, and disappointingly the tragedy has been compounded by the fact that in three years the demolition is the only thing that has happened. According to this Daily Herald article, the construction company went into bankruptcy and things got stalled. It’s a familiar story in this recession ravaged world, but it also begs a number of questions: why, for example, did they go in and destroy everything if they didn’t have the money to begin building? Why did they tear out and cut down trees that weren’t even on the main construction site and wouldn’t have been in the way until serious building began (if ever)? Why has everything that has taken place ended up seemingly like the company has a vendetta against the community and good things in general?
In all fairness, the company has done a few things. Since they demonlished a public space they have found enough money to A) erect a chain link fence around the property, B) spray paint “no parking” signs in big red lettering on the (public) sidewalks at certain points around the property, and C) mow down any vegetation that takes root, ensuring that all that remains visible is broken asphalt and dirt. These actions have left the area looking barren and fit for a post-apocalyptic movie shoot. Understandably tall dry grass poses a fire hazard in the summer, and if people were constantly entering the property one of the them could get hurt and sue. Still, the actions of the construction company have left the Joaquin Neighborhood to be characterized more by blight than by beauty.
Business and construction are complex things, and I don’t mean to overly simplify the issue (though I know I am), but it is important to consider the fact that while various entities involved have been wrangling the legality of their positions, it’s actual residents of the neighborhood who have paid the real price. It’s also probably safe to say that the parent company, Arrowstar Construction, and its president Wayne Ross, aren’t based in the Joaquin neighborhood. Their interest is profit, and it’s too bad that they behaved like little boys in a school sand box with no foresight. Hopefully they’ll get on the ball, because if I was a property owner in the Joaquin neighborhood each day I’d think more and more about a lawsuit.