Letters From Our Readers

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Resident Expresses Concerns About Mid-City Market

Mid-City resident Daniel Eames, expresses his concerns about the “Mid-City Market” development proposed for along Carrollton between St. Louis and Bienville Streets.

June 27, 2011

Dear Councilmembers,

I thank you for your letter, Councilmember Guidry, as well as your attention to the matter regarding the “Mid-City Market” development. There are many groups and determined individuals that have been working in Mid-City to bring this area back since Katrina, and make it better than it was. I should note here that I am painfully aware of the economic challenges our city now faces, and will for years to come. As I write this, I am actively working with various community efforts to better understand how we can improve our city, and accurately serve its’ residents. I’m speaking with stakeholders, business owners, residents, and of course, my legislative council. I’m asking you all to consider how we can examine the myriad of possibilities for procuring good business plans for a stronger community development in our city’s future.

So now, with widespread interest and participation, we have brought a vision to our city worth standing behind (or bicycling through). We are progressively moving toward the goal of repurposing a corridor of blight to that of a positive land improvement, with intelligent design, community involvement, and innovative ideas that offer a whole new way of planning for residential and commercial interest. But what we are getting in return is an under-designed, under-planned, over-priced mall on Carrollton Ave that will squash this part of Mid-City and make a speed bump out of the Lafitte Greenway. The owners of this proposed development site already have a valuable piece of property. And it is because of their preliminary design that I am concerned and object to this development. Let’s face it if you want to sell something, you have to make the product an appealing choice.

With little to none of their own ingenuity have these developers brought to the table anything I’ve seen that serves our unique community. In fact, at the MCNO meeting the developers explicitly stated that they are excited about “taking advantage” of the corridor. I have to wonder where they would be if it were not for everyone else’s hard work. This includes particular design suggestions by various individuals about how to incorporate more thoughtful architectural interaction with the surrounding greenway. I’ve seen the template they sent out via theurbanconservancy.org to invite local retailers, and there’s not much to it. Ironically, the majority of the lease options they’re holding are large businesses that directly threaten similar existing businesses in the area, some with large investments, having recently opened. But it’s the lack of initiative on the part of the developers that left me with some questions: What is the role of business in the community, what do we expect from our businesses, and how can we work together to make this a stronger development for our District?

Throughout our country, there is a growing interest in urban renewal ideas. A younger demographic is moving into the city, and people are thinking differently about growth. I know, because I’m one of them. Though I was born here, and have many generations of my family’s bones here, which the tourists visit everyday. But we are the future of Mid-City. We are the ones that will be using this Greenway for years to come. We are the ones working hard to protect and encourage the growth of our ailing communities. We have been setting up farmers markets, Broad Street bazaars, music venues, coffee shops, healthy community grocery stores, art galleries, clothing shops, and volunteer organizations. We are the students, the homeowners, the future doctors, lawyers, community organizers, and artists. We will be caregivers for the residents of St. Margaret’s, voices for homelessness and blight, stewards of our parks and waterways. We came back because we want to be here! And the people I know are getting it done.

This part of Mid-City has a viable working class, a strong neighborhood organization, as well as numerous advocates through FOLC and surrounding local businesses. This is already a vital commercial area for Mid-City. But I have to ask, do we run the risk of “over-doing” it? How big is too big? I feel that we really need to think realistically about the scale. Much of that requires a good look at the automobile impact of this area, and how we can plan for future growth with the least amount of traffic.

So my question to you is, can we evaluate the sustainability of a different kind of development, i.e. repurposing the two existing buildings, with improved parking accommodations, water management solutions, as well as a more progressive design that will appeal to locals and spur a stronger consumer response for a fraction of the cost—which translates immediately into independently owned-local businesses? In catering to our local economy we create a culture of consumer involvement that is a staple of the American Business Model. It is my belief that we can make this a more economically viable solution for District A by streamlining the impact and working together to create something that fits into the neighborhood.

Yours respectfully,

Daniel Eames

Jun 29 2011