Monday, April 23, 2012

About Lifecycles

While sitting in the amusement park mentioned in a previous blog entry I got to thinking about lifecycles. The trees and flowers I was looking at have life cycles. The bench I was sitting on has a lifecycle. People sitting on that same bench a week of two later will not see the same flowers I saw. Everything – animate, inanimate and even activities and events; all have lifecycles. Civilizations, institutions, empires, even gods are born, grow, mature, decline and ultimately disappear. When we’re young everything is forever. Summer vacation, friends, family, schools, favorite places and activities will always be there. It isn’t until we’re older and have a broader perspective that we realize nothing is permanent – that everything is in a state of transition. The park I was sitting in will one day not be there. A case in point is a park in the district of La Victoria.

In 1978 when the park was inaugurated it was the crown jewel of the community, though the 400 squatter families who were removed to make room for the park during the preceding 4 years probably wouldn’t agree with that assessment. The park was huge, encompassing a two square mile area. It had multiple soccer fields; an indoor facility for volley and basketball; a full-sized adult swimming pool with adjacent kid’s pool and even a separate office building for soccer referees.

In about 1997 the park was essentially abandoned. A caretaker was unable to tell us why authorities stopped maintaining the park. One soccer field is still in use and a new brick wall is being constructed around it but the buildings, pools and grounds are slowly deteriorating…clearing the path for something else to begin its lifecycle on the site.

Probably the most visited tourist attraction in Chiclayo is Las Muses Park. The park came about as the result of monetary gifts from France and Germany and was inaugurated in 1995. It’s a beautiful park and has lots of visitors in the afternoon and on weekends.

The vegetation is well maintained, but a close look at the brick and mortar aspects of the park suggest that after 17 years the park is already in a stage of decline. Large sections of ornamental stonework have collapsed. A fountain has not held water for years and its light and water fixtures are missing. I am not sure how much longer it will remain a tourist attraction if decay is allowed to continue.

Shopping malls have a lifecycle, though I have yet to see a satisfying explanation as to why malls decline. In the 1950s Southgate Mall opened in Milwaukee. It was the first in the city and generated lots of excitement. I don’t remember when it disappeared but its life cycle wasn’t very long. I saw similar mall experiences in Appleton and Marinette Wisconsin. And these malls disappeared before the internet with its e-commerce that is undoubtedly affecting today’s malls.

Chiclayo’s Real Plaza mall is thriving. It has been at 100% occupancy since it opened its doors in 2005. It could probably double and even triple its present square footage and still be 100% occupied. It is definitely in a growth stage. But what occupied the land before it, and what was its lifecycle?

In the early 1950s the food giant Nestle built a food processing plant on the site, bringing an end to the lifecycle of the agricultural use of the land. The facility employed many people while producing milk, instant coffee and other food products. In the early 2000s Nestle decided to pull out, reportedly because of taxes and transportation costs. Half of the operation was moved to Lima and the remainder to Chile. Nestle donated a portion of the land to Chiclayo to be used for housing for the poor, and sold the remainder to developers which resulted in the Real Plaza Mall.

As successful as it is now, at some future date the Real Plaza Mall will come to the end of its lifecycle. Young people hanging out at the food court would probably laugh at the thought, but the history of mall longevity guarantees they will live to see the mall’s demise.


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