Zaina, a colleague of mine at Jordan Business, wrote an interesting opinion piece in this month’s issue entitled “Breathing Spaces”. She pointed out the lack of public spaces in Amman is a troubling dilemma now more than ever, with the rapid urbanization of the city. So she proposed that instead of taxing owners of empty urban land plots, GAM should instead offer tax incentives to these owners in return for allowing the land to be developed into public parks and/or recreation centers.
It’s actually an interesting suggestion.
When it comes to public spaces, I think they can be the heart of private-public partnership and cooperation. There are many similar proposals and plans that could be played with to generate interesting outcomes with huge social benefits. About two years ago I had a discussion with friends that centered on the same topic, where I suggested something I see often in North America: corporate sponsored parks. Companies will often purchase plots of land and develop them into parks, but usually large recreation centers since public parks are easy to come by in countries such as Canada. Foundations will often raise a lot of funds to build recreation centers and parks as well. Often times they will be named after the person or the company. Upkeep is generally minimal and it’s free advertising.
I think such ideas could and should be implemented on a broad scale, across Jordan and not just in Amman. Although, like Zaina, I see the urgency in their demand when it comes to a rapidly condensing city like Amman, where half the country lives.
As for the seemingly sluggish development that is the status quo, I think one of two things: either GAM is concentrating too much on developing public parks in West Amman or is simply finding it difficult to develop such areas in the Eastern districts where buildings and homes are tightly packed. Whatever the case, it is those areas that need them more than anywhere else.
To add to the benefits that Zaina pointed out in her piece, public parks and recreation centers have the ability to create a new and active culture quite easily. Especially for the younger generations; especially considering more than half the country is considered young. A lot of these kids need places to go and things to do.
And we could all do with a little bit more room to breathe.