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Opinion: 10 alternatives to a parking lot at El Centro

February 8th, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Posted by Joel Lee

I am completely sympathetic to El Centro’s need to produce income for their programs while we wait out the zoning process, and I’m excited to see what the long term development will bring to the community. However, I don’t think that a parking lot will add much of anything other than traffic, and it seems like El Centro could develop something, even temporarily, that would coincide better with their values of building the community and serving low income families. Here are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling, with hopes that we can think of more.

A mercado booth. Photo by Victor Ramiro via Creative Commons.

  1. A mercado or traditional Mexican market. Stalls are rented for low prices and merchants offer a variety of goods. Mercados in Mexico are crowded, noisy, and kind of amazing. They are full of people shopping and offer choices for low income merchants and buyers to get their foot in the door.
  2. A community garden. Although it wouldn’t be a big money maker, it could directly produce food for low-income people. There are plenty of crops that can be grown year round here with a little help, and classes could be offered. Plots could be given to low-income people and rented to others.
  3. Food carts. How much fun would it be to have a choice between a variety of food carts for any given meal? Food carts can be very minimal, sometimes just a cooler strapped to a bicycle or a lemonade stand. Again, giving low-income people a chance to get their foot in the door of our economy.
  4. Farmers’ markets tend to be seasonal, but I still love them. Even if it were only one day a week, it would leave the space open for other activities the rest of the week while bringing locally grown produce to the community and generating income.
  5. I know that we are already getting a skate park, but I would love to offer up a place for young people in the community to gather. Probably not a big money maker, but still a good idea. Bring back the basketball court?
  6. I know that mini-golf sounds like a weird idea. But think about it. A great family activity, and with a little shelter, it could be a year-round destination. Build some kind of giant Godzilla statue eating the Eiffel Tower and this could put Beacon Hill on the map and employ a lot of people.
  7. We don’t really need a bookmobile since the library is so close, but as a kid this was a highlight of my youth. What other social services or small companies could be brought to the community by truck? Flower shop? Kite shop? Toy store?
  8. Everyone loves a flea market, right? A slightly less-permanent version of the market, it offers a chance to socialize and meet neighbors while you sell your old junk and obtain new junk. Another good foot in the door of the economy.
  9. There has been a lot of talk about creating an outdoor cinema, but it’s hard to imagine a better area than next to the light rail station. It could become a destination for people all along the light rail line and could be in conjunction with many other uses.
  10. What about a mini amusement park? Many rides are designed to be portable and could be cleared out when the time comes to build more permanent structures. Lets be honest, if we had a giant Ferris wheel I would ride it every day. Wouldn’t you?

(Do you have an opinion? We welcome opinion articles on topics related to Beacon Hill. Please email us your ideas.)

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