Last night we had our Mid-City Recovery Action Meeting, as we do on the first Monday of every month. We’d been planning since last week to address the designs that Victory Real Estate Investments, LLC, appears to have on twenty acres of Mid-City.
What we hadn’t anticipated was Saturday’s front page story in the Times-Picayune. That story really alarmed a lot of people. I saw it as a missed opportunity, but in retrospect, it was free publicity.
There were about 300 people at Grace Episcopal last night, more than we’ve ever had. It was standing room only, and the press was there too.
We knew a lot of people were not just concerned. They were upset. We expected the meeting might devolve into a forum for angry venting.
I have to praise Jennifer Weishaupt, Vice-President and chair of Economic Development for MCNO. She did a great job of providing all the background information. She framed the issue properly. She reviewed all the relevant planning efforts which neighbors and government have engaged in and supported.
One specific citation was particularly to the point:
Development of the warehouse area adjacent to the linear park with mixed use opportunities including multi-family housing, retail facilities, art studios and exhibit space… plazas, seats, landscaping and lighting.
The “linear park” is the Lafitte Corridor which runs right smack dab in the middle of the area where Victory want to build. More about that in a bit.
Jennifer asked for a show of hands — who’s in agreement with the principles that are specified in our neighborhood plan? It was virtually unanimous. Then she outlined the developer’s “Plan B,” the sprawling big box complex described in Saturday’s paper. Another show of hands? And all the hands stayed down.
In other words, Jennifer managed to get people informed and to understand that we’re largely in agreement with one another, and this did a lot to foster civil dialog rather than ranting.
She also pointed out that Victory had also presented a “Plan A,” a so-called “lifestyle development” which did not get mention in the paper Saturday. It’s my feeling that Plan B was presented to scare neighbors into embracing Plan A. But it seems we’re smarter than that.
I get the feeling that Victory hasn’t done its homework. Though the development was presented in Saturday’s paper as a fait accompli, in point of fact they own little of the land in question at this point. Furthermore, they seem to be completely ignorant of the planning for this area that’s already in place. That’s unfortunate, because these plans have the support of both the local community and the local government. These plans can’t be ignored if you want to be a player.
City Council member Shelley Midura was there to reassure neighbors that she works for the community, not the developers. “I don’t do deals,” she repeated several times.
I also spoke. I prefaced Jennifer’s presentation with some remarks about the Lafitte Corridor. Thought I’d post my notes here.