I picked up the paper off the porch this morning looking forward to reading another story by Stephanie Bruno about our renovation, the 18th in an ongoing series.
But I was somewhat distracted by the headline on the front page:
Giant Mid-City retail project planned
A Georgia development company has been quietly working to assemble a vast swath of Mid-City, including the Lindy Boggs Medical Center, to create a nearly contiguous 20-acre site for 1.2 million square feet of retail space for national chains that until now have been unable to find a home inside the city.
I was disheartened. I’m not talking about the revelations of the story itself. We’ve known about this developer’s plans for a while now.
Our community engaged in a long planning process last year. We have a vision for our neighborhood. Any proposed development should be viewed in the context of that vision.
Instead, the article in today’s paper gives a sense of inevitability:
The site being assembled by Victory Real Estate Investments LLC is huge, covering more than half a square mile from Jefferson Davis Parkway to Carrollton Avenue and from Toulouse to Bienville streets.
A second phase being discussed would involve an additional 9 acres on the lake side of North Carrollton, across the street from Sav-A-Center. Victory owns the Sav-A-Center and the former Winn-Dixie store that was converted into a small Home Depot last year.
If we’d taken our message to the press first, we could have been proactive and positive. As it is, MCNO comes off as negative and reactionary:
“We don’t want a suburban-style development plopped in the middle of an urban area,” [MCNO] member Janet Ward Pease said.
I’m not criticizing Janet. The story is simply written this way. The big lead is the developer’s initiative, and a community organization like MCNO is shown as merely reacting to Victory.
The Lafitte Corridor is not mentioned at all, despite the fact that the proposed urban greenway runs right through the heart of the proposed development. That’s a shame, because the Lafitte Corridor is our best opportunity for framing the issue in terms of what matters most to this community. The Lafitte Corridor offers a positive vision of the sort of development we want in Mid-City.
I believe MCNO and FOLC made a mistake in not taking our story to the press. (I’m on the boards of both organizations, so this is self-criticism.) We were well aware of the situation, but it was a mistake to think we could afford to wait. We had a chance to exert more control over the message in the media, and we blew it.
The lesson I hope to remember is this: Seize the opportunity!
This story is far from over, and the deal is far from done. As the story confirms, most of the land in question has not changed hands yet. Here’s what some of my neighbors are saying this morning [via e-mail]:
WOW! So the rumors were true! New Orleans is about to become even more Americanized! It’s a sad thing, but probably inevitable. Sure hope they don’t try to mess with Venezia, Brocato’s, K-Jean’s, etc.
Also, I remember Carrollton Avenue in the 1970’s, before it was re-developed and the Mid-City Center and the Winn-Dixie were put in. At least they’ve chosen an area that’s already been raped before, and is full of ugly, largely wasted warehouses. There’s certainly nothing historical or even attractive about most of the buildings in the chosen area, including the strip mall on the Lakeside of Carrollton & Bohn Ford. No big loss there.
Still, it’s sad. Every day, NO is becoming more like “just another American town.” So much already “ain’t dere no more,” including, significantly, North Claiborne Ave. Will this do to Mid-City what the Interstate did to Treme?
I kinda had a feeling that all these properties on such visible, repopulated streets weren’t still sitting just because the owners were waiting fot the road home. I’m sure there are some of us who actually have mixed emotions and would really enjoy the chance to shop in our own neighborhood instead of on opposite ends of town, the river, the lake, etc. but don’t want to lose the look of NOLA.
I hope that MCNO will take a stand on the issue of not closing any streets so this developer will have to work within the confines of our neighborhood. Closing streets is the first step in getting those big boxes in our backyard. I am aware of the need and desire for shopping within close proximity, however–I do not want my neighborhood to become anytown, USA.
But to be honest — after reading today’s paper, I think this is the last straw for me for staying in New Orleans as we become anywhere USA with the violence of Baghdad.
i moved out of the suburbs and bought a house in the city to get away from all that suburbanite, big box store look, and lifestyle. i think it will ruin the unique fabric of mid-city and new orleans. i don’t like shopping at places like that (i prefer to support the local business owner) and avoid it if i can. i think THAT will be a blight more than some houses that can be fixed up.
i made a point to move (and buy a house) to an environment that i would love to live in, and now the one thing i moved away from is being brought into the environment that i love.
You can see that opinion seems to be pretty negative.