Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cyclist and Pedestrian Safety Campaign to be discussed Monday

Shown here are some examples of campaigns
used elsewhere.
Caryn Jenkins will be our special guest at tomorrow night's meeting.  She'll be updating us on ideas for the safety campaign she's begun to coordinate.


Many organizations are part of this, some of which are groups that are not typically active in any sort of activism.




The campaign will be modeled on successful one's done elsewhere.  It could be part of the overall trend in making our cities more bike-able and walk-able.  Part of that is the way people are beginning to advocate for their right to bike and walk.  Times are changing!


As usual, we meet 6:00-7:00, Monday evening at the Wright Math Building, 2907 Woodlawn Ave., two blocks up from the Gold Dome on Centenary's campus.  Join us!

If you have thoughts on the best way to raise awareness for safety,
let us know at Monday's meeting, or through our facebook page.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

No meeting on Monday, March 31st

No meeting Monday, March 31st, as a prospective faculty member for Centenary has some board members otherwise committed.  See you online via the facebook page for dialogue! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Greens on the Red, Permaculture Discussed at Last Meeting


In attendance: Lani Duke, Feico Kempff, Loren Demerath, Maurice Loridans, Josh Fast, Katherine Brandl

The group first discussed some of the topics raised during the radio show interviews, including Stephen Pederson’s social bike group, called SBC and which can be found on facebook.  The plan is for the ride to be on the last Friday of every month, first gathering at 6:30 at Highland Park, before heading south to pick up more at 7:30 at Betty Virginia Park, then swinging by Centenary, then heading downtown, and returning to end back at Colombia.

BIKE-PED SAFETY CONCERNS AT A PEAK
Loren reported that Karen Jenkins is a member of the Shreveport road cycling club, and invited ABetterShreveport to join representatives of other groups and clubs for a meeting to discuss the possibility of mounting a campaign to raise driver awareness of cyclist and pedestrian safety concerns.
    {Loren attended the meeting the following day,  and it well-attended, with about fifteen people representing a cross-section of interests and expertise, including Sheri Tally, former television news anchor for KTBS, Jeff Welburne, long-time activist and observer of city politics, and ** a decorated military combat veteran, now racing around the country in wheelchair divisions.}
    Maurice noted that a person in a motorized wheelchair was killed over the weekend.  He also noted that the chair was misleadingly referred to as a “scooter” by the media.  {That incident has provoked research by a local media outlet.  Stay tuned.}

MAKING THE MAKERS FAIR PRODUCTIVE?
The group discussed how the table at Makers Fair on April 12th might work.  We could have sign-up sheets for people interested in being informed about upcoming meetings or receiving information or announcements on particular themes, such as community gardening, biking, walking, wildflower trailblazing (doesn’t that sound fun?!), public art and performance, community supported agriculture, etc.  It was noted that those lists could complement the lists of people already developing from groups that have formed on facebook.  Victoria Provenza was mentioned as a possible helper in manning the table, since she sells maps there as well.

CELEBRATING SMART LOCAL GARDENING (AND EATING)
from Chris Jay's account of the inaugural
"Greens on the Red" festival.  mm-mm!
Josh, and fellow ABS member Jon Soul were at the inaugural Greens on the Red festival; Josh said he had some of Jon’s dock, an edible plant with spearmint shaped leaves (Josh looked outside the window to spot some, and didn’t see any, but did see henbit, a plant with purple flowers; both are weeds you can eat; deadnettle is another one; with a cleaver that has a whirled shape—can just eat that raw.  Someone mentioned juicing, and Josh said a lot of foraging food shouldn’t be juiced, that it produces too much oxcilyc acid when you have that much all at once.

Also discussed was how permaculture is being used at restaurants like Carolyn Manning’s “Blue”.  Any place that needs salad greens can do it; water spinach is the quickest growing green and higher in calcium and other nutrients but with less calories, lots of vitamin A.

The group also talked about “farmeries” which may increasingly be developed out of necessity.  Josh told of one kind of system being developed is to have plants and fish both using the same recycled water and feeding off each other.  It’s being done all over and is a step toward self-sustainability.  Hugelkulture was also described.

WATER AS FRIEND, NOT FOE
Someone noted that this old philosophy of funneling storm water into the gulf as fast as possible isn’t always for the best.  It leads to polluted bodies of water where the stormwater hasn’t be cleaned by the filter of the land; it causes wetlands to shrink on the coast of Louisiana; and it makes the crystaline waters of the gulf coast to lose their clarity, and red tide is on the rise too.
The night of the meeting there was a reception for John Berry, author of the book “Rising Tide” about coastal restoration.

Josh mentioned how Jeff Laughton is one of heads of the permaculture movement and he talks about subsidizing people’s housing costs with smart gardening.  

One of the overarching ideas behind permaculture is an ecological truth: if you don’t deal with the waste product of a system you’re creating pollution; you identify patterns that are happening and study how to deal with the details of the patterns.  The indigenous peoples of the Americas often did that.  E.g., the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash, being complementary with companion planting: beans put the nitrogen back; Mexicans call it milpa.
Another fun meeting!  Join us some time!  All are welcome!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Smart Gardening, Storytelling, Bike-Ped Bridges, Hamilton Terrace, Kings & Youree, Wildflower Trailblazing All Discussed at Recent Meeting with MPC Director In Attendance


In attendance (I think; forgot to take note!): Maurice Loridans, Lani Duke, Josh Fast, Feico Kempff, Loren Demerath, Stephen Jean, Donna Curtis, Susan Keith, Cynthia Keith, Emily Harmeyer, Katherine Brandl

JOSH FAST A SOURCE OF SMART GARDENING EXPERTISE
Because ABetterShreveport has long supported the best practice of using community gardening and urban farming to enhance quality of life in a city, the group was excited to welcome Josh Fast.  Josh introduced himself.  Originally from Michigan, Josh has moved to Shreveport recently with his partner, Lydia Thomas, and they’ve since helped people in town like Stephen Jean make their gardens into more productive and efficient systems.  Stephen is on record as having changed his lifestyle to eat more healthily, and his wife has become an urban farmer as part of that change.  

{Later that week, Carolyn Manning invited Josh to be a guest on the radio show and to tell people about some of the cool garden techniques he knows about.  Josh did just that the following Monday, and talked on the radio about such things as digging swales that reduce the need to water your garden.}    

It was noted that Dr. Grace Peterson of the LSU Ag Center believes the ArkLaTex may just be the greens capital of the world, it being such optimal conditions for growing deliciously edible greens!  {And this was evidenced by the successful “Greens on the Red” festival later that week!  Way to go all of you who organized and participated!}

(Community gardening came up again in the discussion of Hamilton Terrace, below.)

NEW MAKERS FAIR APPROACHING
The Makers Fair is approaching on April 12th, and we hear it’s now being run by SHRAC, and not by the originators, the Texas Avenue Community Association.  Dan Keele is one person helping organize it, and reportedly he’d like ABetterShreveport to have a booth.  That’d be a good chance to share information on our various projects and proposals, such as the bike routes map, the used-bike depot and coop, the paths network, and little free libraries.  Getting materials and staffing the table will a topic at upcoming meetings.

HEBERT AND JAY’S STORYTELLING NIGHT A SUCCESS
The night of storytelling performances at Fairfield Studios recently was a real success, reported Loren and Katherine.  This past night’s theme was “new in town.”  The next one they’ll be having will be about “mistakes,” and possibly the next after that about “addiction and recovery.”  Kudos to Sara Hebert and Chris Jay for producing such a rich evening that revealed how many interesting people and stories surround us here in Shreveport!

KINGS AND YOUREE DISCUSSED
Stephen Jean, the Interim Director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission was in attendance, and Maurice took the opportunity to ask him about the intersection of Kings Highway and Youree Drive.  Maurice said we’d heard for some time now that the rennovation planned will make it even worse for cyclists and pedestrians because it’s an outdated plan being used.  Stephen said he wasn’t aware of when it’s occurring off the top of his head, but could find out from Robert Westerman; a Whataburger and other things is being planned there.  Stephen noted that there’s a privately owned median that might be used for a car dealership; MPC would rather see only the Clark St. area used, and they’d be meticulous with how they approach access points. Nader’s Gallery has been sent drawings because they may be affected too.  Donna said doesn’t want anything on that previously unclaimed property.  Stephen said we can stay engaged in the process.  Loren said he will send an email to Stephen asking to be kept informed of when it’s being addressed.  He also said NLCOG will be the appropriate body to contact since Youree is a state highway.  We noted that Stephanie Pedro submitted concerns on this a while ago.

JIMMIE DAVIS BRIDGE A CONCERN
The Jimmie Davis bridge news that’s come out lately was mentioned as another concern.  It’s feared that they may have taken away the means of connecting the two riverside bike paths in Shreveport and Bossier.  There was concern over whether or not the money for the second span has been raised.

It was noted that it will be a continuing embarrassment to our city is that our bridges aren’t more bikeable and walkable, some of which could be fixed with minimal cost of restriping.  Bridge lanes could be put on diets as streets are, where their lanes are made slimmer; the result is both more space for bike lanes, and lower, safer automobile speeds.     

HAMILTON TERRACE: PRICE REDUCED, LOTS OF POTENTIAL, CRITICAL AREA
Feico has been working on the possibility of Hamilton Terrace.  It’s a former school, with nice old architecture and includes a gym, and spaces where there was a library and cafeteria.  Elsewhere, lots of such places have been made into buildings of cool loft style apartments.

The asking price has been reduced to just $650,000, down from the initial price of 1.4 million.

It was noted that area is at risk, with Doctor’s Hospital having closed.  Donna said the area to the south was once planned as being a sort of restaurant row.  There are a lot of good places there that produce quite a bit of revenue.  It’s a tax base that should be maintained and protected.

As a veteran community gardener, Maurice commented that living close to one’s garden is optimal, and that could be a possibility for Hamilton Terrace.  The pool has been filled in, and Josh mentioned that established techniques have been developed for converting former pools into highly productive gardens.  One man has documented doing that at his house.  He thought he’d be able to meet the entire fruit and vegetable needs of his family after three years, and it turns out he did in only six months.

It was noted that Tom Arceneaux has shown interest in developing this idea, and as a member of the city’s first city council, he’s a good partner to have for something like this.  

Stephen Jean recommended that we look in the Master Plan for “community plans”.  There’s a process that was laid out there for how to do a community plan.  It describes even how a neighborhood can do it itself, as well as the process to use for getting adopted.  Shreveport Common is an an example of a recent community plan that’s been adopted.  We might consider whether or not we want to have one for the area around Hamilton Terrace.  A group can do their own without paying for it.  We can embark on it and along the way get MPC’s help in how to navigate the process.  Other cities done the kind of purposeful development that we’re talking about here.  They’re called, urban villages; enterprise zones, or planning districts.  The idea is often to develop an ecosystem of residence, work, and leisure, with restaurants and retail developing out of that.  Another potential area is the MLK area where Southern University is located nearby.  Anywhere there’s a job center amid a neighborhood is a candidate for being planned to become an urban village.  Kings Highway had developed a plan as an urban village but the merchants at the time rose up against it.

WILDFLOWER TRAILBLAZING IDEA TAKES SHAPE:
MPC and ABS have reached out to Shreveport Green, and we were glad to have Donna with us again today.  Donna said she was awed by the idea.  As part of jumping in to work on it, she’s been thinking of the challenges we’d need to meet along the way: the cost, the rights and sensitivity of homeowners, etc.

Stephen Jean said he gave a presentation to the city department heads today and circulated the handout he distributed to them, and that is a model of what might be distributed to residents to solicit their participation.  The handout describes how the program is designed to get input from residents on where they want trails by surveying where people have put wildflower seed.  Among the points made in the hand out:
when: getting seeds out late fall or winter for visibility of spring flowers
where: along public streets, alleys, and other city property such as parks and medians
also:
this opportunity comes only once a year
if on private streets, always get permission from the homeowners association
be careful on busy streets or avoid them all together -- we need to know how to connect to them
concentrate on where you’d LIKE to ride, run, or walk, instead of where you do now

It’s a nice flier, with bright colors and the cheerful ending, “Thank you for participating and… Happy Trails!”

The department heads raised a lot of the same points raised by Donna in emails between this week.

Mowing: We’ll have to figure it out; Stephen gave the department heads two weeks for comments.  The CAO made some practicial comments similar to Donna’s; Dale Sibley thought it could be good; getting the community involved in coming up with practical solutions; we’ve got open minds moving forward with this.  
   Once it’s going, we’ll have to understand the mowing schedules in these areas so we can survey and document somehow where the flowers are.
   It was noted that even it they’re there for a week, it makes a visual demonstration.  Loren noted that it’s also a “push” medium where it’s pushed before you in the environment, as opposed to a “pull” medium where you have to go and pull it from some other place to see it, like from the internet, a newspaper article, etc.

Locations: We’re asking that people do it on state highways, which are the domain of NLCOG.  NLCOG is working on a bike-ped component to their new transportation plan, but it’s those connections within the city are what MPC can help with.  

Homeowners: although we’d only be asking that people use public right-of-ways, some property owners might welcome paths being installed along edges of their property.  There are areas that need connections which residents would appreciate.  

Cost: It’s going to be significant money because of the cost of seeds.  If we can get a non-profit involved, like Shreveport Green, it would allow people to make donations.  Donna noted that they already have a wildflower fund, and an account could be created out of that.  Donna also said some people who’ve made significant donations in the past are realtors; instead of giving an address stamp to a buyer of a new property, they’ve donated to the wildflower fund in that buyer’s name.
   Donna reviewed some of the characteristics and prices she’d researched on wildflower seeds.  Beyond noting the price, it’s useful to look at the rate that seeds yield flowers, and whether they come back, since we may or may not want those that last beyond one year.
  • Poppies: sow them in november, won’t come back, $25 per pound
  • Cosmos: rarely come back, can seed any time (they’re at Fern and 70th), 80% yield rate
  • Bachelor’s Buttons: don’t come back and are tall, but expensive
  • Blue Bonnets: started on the parkway until we got a lot of water and they mowed them
  • Texas Paint brush: $425/lb.; 40% survive

   Donna also noted that she has tons of daffodil bulbs; Maurice said they’re perfect because they’re not in mowing season, they come back; they’re bulbs to you plant them.  The daffodils could be the permanent markers whereas some of the other wildflowers once cut won’t come back.

Status: as the Interim Director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, Stephen Jean was happy to report that the proposal was approved and this is now an official MPC project!  That means they’ll be working on it with community organizations, such as ABetterShreveport and Shreveport Green.  The group expressed it’s happiness!

Next steps: Stephen said he’ll be getting back to the office to figure out various details.  Donna will be persuasive with her organization but was they won’t need much persuasion and will be behind it.  ABetterShreveport and anyone else can begin to scout trails that we want, studying the map of street routes Stephen and Maurice have made, and finding where two routes would be connecting with a trail.




Thursday, March 6, 2014

MPC Director Stephen Jean Pitches Beautiful Idea at Last Meeting!


In attendance: Stephen Jean, Dara Sanders, Loren Demerath, Maurice Loridans, Cynthia Keith, Feico Kempff, Susan Perkins, Amanda Bertrand, Kathryn Brandl, Helen Whitaker, Catherine McGuinn Sailor

The group welcomed Stephen Jean, the director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, and Dara Sanders, planner for the MPC and coordinator of Master Plan Implementation, as well as Stephen’s wife, Catherine McGuinn Sailor, and friend, Helen Whitaker.

MPC WORKING ON CONNECTIVITY

Stephen talked about how he’s been aware of ABetterShreveport’s interest in making Shreveport more walkable and bikeable, and the MPC has been proactive, looking for ways to do that.  It’s part of the Master Plan, and that’s their guide for development and zoning.  For example, they’ve recently been in conversations with Wholefoods about their new building, looking for way to facilitate bike-pedestrian mobility in that area.  They’ve also been looking into a way of going under 70th, and have talked with SPAR Director Shelly Ragle and city engineer Robert Westerman about that.

Could this fill the "black hole" to let us finally walk to 70th & Youree?
(This "hovenring" is in Holland, wouldn't you know.)
In addition to the Master Plan’s priorities, Stephen and Katherine described how personal experience has led them to see the need first hand. On a recent bicycle trip, trying to go from Regional Urology to the Krogers on Youree and 70th, they found the going very difficult, having to negotiate a circuitous route.  It shows the need to find safer connections for those who want to walk and bike as transportation around the city.  Others noted people don’t just want to do that for their own health, or the planet’s health, but also because it’s fun.

Stephen said, though, that developers are often unhappy about implementing the features mandated in the Master Plan.  These developers are used to using a standard model where a group of homes are isolated with but one entry and exit point, making walking and biking difficult.  It was noted that we all need to continue to educate as to what people are demanding in cities these days, and how it will actually be more profitable for developers to build this way.  It was noted that it’s also safer, putting more people on the street and reducing their vulnerability.

Stephen noted that if you talk to people who are older, they’ll remember riding the trolley to a downtown that was a thriving place.  And it’s happening again.  Steven mentioned visiting his son in Austin recently and how lives in a transitional neighborhood, but the amenities are remarkable: right there is the bus stop, the bike lane, the “Yellow Bike” stop, a little pocket park.  But in terms of properties the neighborhood wouldn’t be much that much different from Queensboro or Caddo Heights.  

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT CAN DRIVE POLICY

Bentonville, Arkansas, Stephen mentioned has done a lot.  It has a large corporate presence in the city, so they’ve got people coming in and demanding things, and the demand drives the policy.

As a way of facilitating that demand, Stephen said the MPC is going to reconvene the Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) and get the citizens to advocate for what would help the city.  For example, there’s a lot of people wanting to bike and ride, and doing things like restriping streets and installing paths is low hanging fruit. 

Stephen mentioned that the MPC’s mid-month meeting might be an opportunity to advocate and communicate what’s been done elsewhere and which now amount to “best practices” for city development.  It was agreed that ABS would like to present to MPC, as it has to the City Council.

COMMUNITY GARDENING MENTIONED TOO

Grace Peterson also wants to have connections to different community gardening hubs in a hundred mile radius, not to mention all those within the city.  

Cookie Coleman of the Red River Coalition of Community Gardens has identified deficiencies in food; a local distribution center would help get regionally grown foods out locally.  Having the local governing bodies adopt standards would help.  The Coalition wasn’t asking for financial support but for policy and regulation.  The Coalition helps work on food security.  (Stephen mentioned the Arklatex is the greens capital of the world, and, incidentally, he’s looking for a recipe for chicory; here it grows big.)

DEVELOPERS HAVE TO ENGAGE WITH THE MASTER PLAN

Loren mentioned that he’s found developers can talk a good game, but haven’t the training of an urban planner on what the best practices are for quality of life.  It’s more than just “a look” as the failure of Villagio has shown locally.

Stephen said developers may not agree with the Master Plan but it can’t be ignored.  He said they have a lot of support from their board, and that includes Lea DeMarteau, the current Chair.  MPC would now like to start going out more and engaging the community and that it needs help from the community.  

In addition to the renewed CAG, there’ll be an opportunity for community input through the Unified Development Code, and we want to make sure the new code is implementing the Master Plan. The Master Plan is not codified as it stands now; we have language in our current ordinances but they're not design standards or very specific.  A new UDC would also give predictability to developers and make it easier for them to develop here, as well as improving quality of life issues.  

For example, the code can require a grid; when new streets are constructed we can require interconnectivity and you can use the public right of way for multiple functions rather than avoiding it.  Not every street will have a bike lane, but they can be installed by putting streets on “diets” to make lanes thinner; e.g., going from 15 feet to 11.  That also slows down traffic and makes it safer.

A BEAUTIFUL IDEA PITCHED!

Stephen then pitched an idea.  Walking to church one day, he was looking at wildflowers, and had a thought: how about we all throw wildflower seeds everywhere we want bike and walking paths to be.  Once bloomed, the flowers show planners on MPC where the community wants paths.  Arial photographs would show the flowers, and if the tree canopy hides them, we’d see them when we’re driving down the road. 

Wildflower seed showing a suggested bike path locale? 
Stephen has pitched it to some people in city hall and gotten nothing but positive feedback.  He said he wanted to ABetterShreveport on board first before moving forward, since we’re among the strongest advocates for multimodal transportation, and we have such a large following on facebook.  If ABS is interested, we need to sit down and talk about how to get it started.  Shreveport Green is a pivot point as well. 

The idea is that we could hand out a pamphlet laying out the rules that people follow.  Maybe we could even have color codes for what kind of trail or path is intended.  We’d want to be respectful of people’s property of course, so there’d be rules about staying on public right-of-ways, more likely.

Stephen’s talked to Bonnie Moore about the idea too. The notion would be that every neighborhood could do this; we’d want people to see that anyone should be able ride a bike to anywhere they want to.  Katherine noted that just doing errands are what she and Stephen have tried to do, and it’s hard.

WALKING AND BICYCLING HARD IN PLACES

Others testified as to the difficulties.  Kathryn noted that she moved here from Eugene and found she couldn’t walk around.  Dara lives near the shopping area but can’t get there on foot. 

Maurice noted that, as a transportation cyclist, he refers to the area around 70th and Youree as “the black hole.”  Nonetheless, the recommended bike routes map that he and Stephen Pederson have developed and that ABS is about to publish and distribute should help.

Loren said he loves biking for transportation and manages o.k. on the streets, but there’s always more danger being around cars than being on a bike path away from them.  Generally speaking, those especially sensitive to that, and who won’t go biking otherwise, are elderly, children, and women.  Being an emboldened with the power of a white, middle class male, may have something to do it.

Helen Whitaker said it would completely change this community and make our spaces more usable.  Kathryn noted that she’s from Minneapolis originally, and they have a beautiful parkway system all connected with paths and bike lanes; it’s much more of a bikable community there.  What’s remarkable, Kathryn said, is that we have far more days in the year when you’d want to be outside than they do in Minneapolis, even if July and August are kind of tough.

Stephen also noted that a a significant percent of business improves and crime goes down with a bike path installed.  Catherine attended the NLCOG workshop on bike-ped planning and they said Shreveport has the architecture to be a world class bicycling and pedestrian city.  Loren echoed how LSU's Dr. Bruce Sharky said the same after his visit to Shreveport—and he’s a world leader in designing greenways and bike paths!

CHANGE NEEDED FOR THE GOOD OF OUR CITY

Catherine noted that many of our kids leave Shreveport if they can, but we want them to come back and live near us.  But there’s no reason for them to do that if we don’t build a cool city to live in.  Plus, Catherine noted, I’m a taxpayer too, and when they haven’t given me a place to bike or walk, well… 

Stephen said, as the Interim Director, the MPC is very committed to implementing the Master Plan.  Stephen noted that he was surprised to be named Interim Director, and afterwards thought people might want to know who he is, so he gave a presentation as a citizen at the December 20th meeting of the City Council.  In it, he describes how two things he’s recently become passionate about are bicycling and eating right.  Having watched Forks Over Knives, he’s now a vegan and his wife is basically an urban farmer.  He’s for everything that’s in the Masterplan, not just the transportation stuff.

Since last Monday's meeting, the MPC unanimously passed the "Wildflower Trailblazing" program described above.  We'll meet with MPC Director Stephen Jean and Planner Dara Sanders again to discuss program details this Monday, March 10th, 6:00-7:00 p.m., at the Wright Math Building, Woodlawn Ave.  That's on Centenary's campus, just up from the Gold Dome.  All are welcome!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Downtown Energy Among Topics at Last Meeting


In attendance: Loren Demerath, Carolyn Manning, Lani Duke, Katheryn Brandl, Amanda Bertrand, Darras Lattier, Steven Pederson, Cynthia Keith, Feico Kempff, Susan Keith, Maurice Loridans

MEETINGS & CALLS MOVE TRAILS NETWORK FORWARD

Loren updated the group on the HGIO advocacy committee’s work on the trail network, and how we’ve had conference calls, or face-to-face meetings with Jennifer Ruley, planner in the New Orleans area who’s helped implement lots of bike paths there, Dara Sanders, Shreveport MPC Planner, Jeff Everson, City Councilman, and Kent Rogers, Director of NLCOG, and this week will be talking with Lea Desmarteau, Chair of MPC, and Matthew Linn, Caddo Commissioner.   

Part of what we’re discussing with these folks is who might be the best fiduciary agent and coordinator of the effort to conduct a feasibility study and develop plans.  The funding could be obtained in large part from grants, some are available through the federal government, while others are from national non-profits.  Steven mentioned “People for Bikes” for grants and Loren said that Jennifer Ruley had mentioned them.

RED RIVER DISTRICT AND DOWNTOWN DISCUSSED

Carolyn represents ABS on the Red River District Advisory Board and gave a report on what they’ve been doing lately. There are several new tenants there, including a hamburger place, and some others that may come.  Cohab is there even though there were a lot of obstacles they had to overcome to get them in.  They wanted them there because it shows what kind of district they want, not just bars, for example.  As businesses come they’re looking to promote them so as not to make it an isolated zone with little life.  Social media is one thing they’re looking at.  Making it pedestrian and bike friendly is important.  Carolyn said people may end up going because the walk is so cool, as it is San Antonio.  They’re looking at lighting, using the alleys creatively, etc.

Loren asked about mixed-use development, and said places tend to lack a sense of life when they’re homogeneous and have a designed, artificial feel.  Malls are like that; as nice as they are, people go there for one reason usually, and there much interesting see because there’s little variety to the activity.  In an organic urban area, though, if there are lots of folks living and working in a dense area, it’s a vibrant place where folks to want to be just for the energy and people watching of it all.

Noting that one can find surprising life downtown, Darras said he'd recently gone to a basement concert at Foxtrot Studios that’s next to Robinson, where a band from California was there playing high quality music.  Darras also mentioned 4 J’s coffee house.  Stephen said he’d talked to 4 J’s about having a “suspended coffee" "pay it forward” set-up there and they said they’re interested in it.
Shipping container art in Singapore by Mary Iverson

Darras mentioned doing a mural, something spontaneous and open could add energy downtown.  Carolyn said they’re looking to lease the buildings so they wouldn't want to do anything that would decrease the value.  Loren mentioned the proposal presented by his students a year ago about using a shipping container, maybe open at either end and with windows cut into the walls, and where some sort of canvases would be hung outside it.  It was noted how public art adds value and energy to a site.

Darras said he's seen "musician roundtables" work like that, where they can function as a get together jam, but entice people to listen too.  Dead spaces without people living and working are to be avoided.  It was noted that it's a shame Festival Plaza and the area east to the river has no activity there.

TEXAS COMMON ADVISORY BOARD
Wendy Benscotter had met with Carolyn and said the Texas Common Advisory Board would be reconvening again, the better to keep pushing the need for different kinds of things for downtown.

COUNCIL OF NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATIONS
Carolyn has also helped represent ABS at the Council of Neighborhood Associations, and Loren will be writing about that in his next Heliopolis column.  Carolyn said they've drafted by-laws and will be meeting more soon.  Loren noted it's a nice addition to our government advisory capacity; it should provide a means for local interests and expertise to reach centralized government decision-making. 


DOG PARK CHECK DELIVERED!
Cynthia delivered a $28,000 check from ABetterShreveport (with the money raised by the Dog Park Alliance) for the dog park on Valentine’s Day!  Cynthia said they want to meet with SPAR and contribute to ideas for the design.  Shelly Ragle said they’ll be having a Dog Park Users Group to bounce ideas off of, get feedback, etc.  Erin McCarty had been interviewing Shelly Ragle about the design.  All the law suits have been dismissed.  Life's looking good!

CRITICAL MANNERS RIDE
Steven wants to do a critical mass ride (though not the obstructionist style), the last Friday of every month, starting 7 p.m. at Highland Park involving Betty Virginia and downtown.  Need to end at a bar, etc.  This will be a general broad reaching thing, using facebook and such to get the word out.  SBC Bike Social will be the name of the group, so check it out, y'all!