June 04, 2009

Wide Open Spaces

Uncle originally bought his place in the newly developed east-Taipei because of its proximity to the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall park which offered a nice space for the grandparents and the kids. Thirty years later, the area is now amongst the most upscale district in Taipei, and the SYT park is packed with oldsters, youngsters, and all ages in between every day.

Across the street had been the hulking Songshan Tobacco Factory. As the area became built up, it was no longer practical to have a factory in the middle of the city. So the factory was abandoned, the old buildings and dorms became cheap exterior sets for the soap operas. The flat ground was roughly paved to form a dozen outdoor basketball courts, and the remaining space was allowed to become an overgrown lawn for the dogs and kids. The open field in the middle of the city also made it a perfect location for election rallies and other public events.

The grounds were kinda scruffy, but the city did keep it mostly kinda clean, and the kids sure got after each other on the blacktop courts every day. But the land was just too valuable to leave fallow, and soon there were rumblings of developers eying the spot like a tigers eying a piece of meat, and Farglory was the alpha male who won the prize. The land will be developed as a combination of a stadium arena, shopping center, and hotel-office complex.

Sure, there were sporadic protests. We got fliers from the local citizens' group in our mailbox looking for support in preserving the land as open park space. But I was lazy and cynical of the process and never got involved. They finally fenced off the entire lot the other day. The pickup hoopsters, frisbee-chasing dogs, and rollerblading kids evicted to parts unknown. The high walls are emblazoned with Farglory logos and slogans, promising to be the most advanced cultural, technological, and ecological development ever. Well, if you want to be green, how about not building in the first place? The last thing the area needs is another department store, with at least half a dozen already within walking distance. There's even already the Taipei Arena nearby which already has trouble filling dates, so having another stadium right there doesn't seem like a productive use, either.

So my kid will miss out on the extra play space, the air will be even more choked with the smog from buses and cars, and that'll be the upside compared to the hassles during construction. But I guess it does come in handy once in a while to be able to walk down the street and pick up a Tiffany bauble for the wife anytime I want.

Posted by mikewang on 09:57 PM