Some of my neighbors have been bickering, er, I mean debating about Comiskey Park here in Mid-City. The basketball goals that used to be there…
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!
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