In Philadelphia, a small business owner and local developer saw garbage strewn lot and wanted something better. According to the The Atlantic Cities’ Nate Berg, the guy asked the city to fix the problem, but finally took matters into his own hands when nothing happened. Eventually, he invested $20,000 of his own money making the lot into a park.
Sadly, however, the city is now trying to make the man return the lot to its original state. Authorities claim he trespassed on the land and, as Berg points out, they’re probably worried about lawsuits. It sounds like everybody will lose.
The story is simultaneously inspiring and heartbreaking, but I couldn’t help thinking that if it had happened in a smaller metro area — say, one like Provo — things would have played out differently.
Consider, after all, my recent post on a vacant lot in downtown Provo. The day I published that post, an official left a comment clarifying the situation and offering some fascinating insights. That process has happened a number of times and at least in my case, has motivated me to become more involved in shaping the city. In other words, in a city like Provo the ball can actually get rolling and sometimes more quickly.
And keep in mind that I’m just some guy with a blog.
However, Provo — and presumably similarly sized cities like Boulder or Ann Arbor — are big enough to have interesting things happening but small enough for citizens to become actively engaged in the conversation. There are a lot of bureaucratic nightmares in Provo, but there are also fewer voices clamoring for attention.
That’s not to say that living in larger cities isn’t without perks. While talking to friends living in various parts of the country lately, for example, I’ve heard about a lot of great things in their respective bigger cities. The same say day The Atlantic Cities story ran Next American Cities also published a piece on a small park in Philadelphia, so obviously wonderful things are happening there.
Still, I’ve struggled to find any friends in major metro areas that are actively engaged in practical discussions about the built environment. In smaller sized metro areas, however, they can be. In Provo, it’s apparently even encouraged.