Sunday, May 17, 2009

Summary of Last Week's Meeting

In attendance: April Dahm, Feico Kempff, Dale Jennings, Jen Courtney, Rainer Coutney, David Nelson, Brady Blade, Bill Wiener, Janine Demerath, Kelly Weeks, Maurice Loridans, Troy Messina, Loren Demerath

The meeting began with Loren and Feico reporting on their meeting with Don Shea. Loren's recommendations to Brady Blade in preparation for his trip to the International Council of Shopping Centers are posted in the preceding post.

Jen Courtney, who is the head of a food coop in town, described the nature of her group. Jen said the group aveages about 15 people, operates out of her house and truck, and is just big enough so that she can handle it alone, that they are able to get organic food at wholesale prices, but, after being asked, she said that the members were more interested in the quality of food than the price. We discussed what a full, store-front coop would require, how it would help with convenience and organization, and how there could be enough interest in Shreveport to support it. Brady said there may be buildings downtown, such as the former location of Brothers Seafood, with about 8,000 square feet where the coop could be located rent-free and have no sale tax. There was discussion of parking, how proximity to the bus terminal would help, whether a location on Texas Avenue would be preferable or would detract from the density being sought for the core of downtown around Texas Street.

The point was rasied that downtown grocery stores in other cities are often connect to, or linked through pedestrian space to a vertical parking garage. Also, that Don Shea noted that access to groceries is one of the most desired elements by downtown residents.

The restoration and bicycle coops were also discussed, briefly, and how the area around Fertita's is likely also too removed from the core of downtown to work.

Bill Weiner mentioned that one of the problems with Shreveport development in the past has been that we have put things not where they should be, but where cheap and available real estate has been. The group noted that such a pattern has led to the sprawl that gives us the unhealthy and unhappy transportation lifestyles that we now have, but that good planning should be combined with pragmatism and opportunism.

The group then turned to the topic of the developement of the core downtown area, and Bill Wiener spoke to the group about how his experiences. Bill talked about how he had onced tried to live downtown but was not allowed build for a residence, though he would have been allow to build a hotel. The group noted a number of elegant loft and townhouse residences that have recently been developed, perhaps indicating a change in city priorities and policy.

Bill Weiner also talked about the "string of pearls" plan he had helped develop several decades ago. The plan connected parks, universities, and cultural centers using public lands such as the bayous cum drainage ditches. The group noted how similar that plan is to our more recent "Bayous to Use" proposal that the National Park Service is helping us to develop.

Bill described the possibility of using a public corporation to buy land, and lease it back to the railroads where necessary. Brady talked about his experience working with railroad companies, and how reaching agreements can be challenging.

Bill described his "three C's" of good planning: accounting for capacity, cumulative effects, and character. It was noted how downtown location of retail and residence alongside work spaces would more efficiently handle capacity, produce fewer cumulative effects and take advantage of Shreveport's unique downtown character.

The discussion then turned to the kinds of retail to recruit for downtown, and whether they large retailers would kill local stores or whether they already had done so, and whether their presence would increase foot traffic and actually help smaller local merchants.

Feico Kempff described work he had done recently on the Coates Bluff trail. He is scheduled to meet with the heirs of the cemetaries that are now overgrown with forest. The cemetaries are located on two hills alongside the bayou that goes from the Montessori School, by Stoner Elementary, and behind Magnet High School. Feico and others noted how Caddo public schools and SPAR could be partners in developing the trail. Dale Jennings, a local history buff, talked about the history of the area as well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Importance of Local Cultural Ammenities for Growing an Economy

Feico Kempff just passed on to me a report released by the Texas Cultural Trust that should motivate us to continue what we've been doing as ABetterShreveport.

In a nutshell, the report states that a growing economy needs a creative sector that includes a highly paid innovative work force, and that cultural ammenities are critical attracting and retaining that work force.

The study finds that successful communities provide cultural ammenities in three principle forms:
  1. active and diverse nonprofit cultural arts organizations and programs
  2. well-rounded curriculum in public schools
  3. economic development efforts that emphasize the quality of place
Certainly that last one, "quality of place," is what we've been working on with our projects.

Imagine a Shreveport where you can safely, conveniently, and pleasantly bike to a downtown where there is enough diverse activity that just sitting and people watching over a cup of coffee would be entertainment enough. That's a quality of place that would make people want to live here, be they software designers, filmmakers, inventors, researchers, or creative people of any type.

Having those people here helps our economy, the report says, so creating a quality place to live doesn't just help our quality of life, it helps us our bank accounts too!

So here's to developing Texas Street, a cultural district, creating a coop plaza, a recommended bike route network, a system of greenways, community gardens, creating avenues for public dialogue on community issues, etc., etc.!

We should be heartened by the report. We're on the right track. Onward and upward, for the good of us all!

Next meeting Tuesday the 12th, good past meetings with Brady Blade and Don Shea

next ABetterShreveport meeting is this Tuesday, the 12th, at 8:20 a.m.

We'll be set to pick up where we left off in discussing:

* the cultural district
* a cooperative center for food, bikes, and restoration
* Texas Street development
* signs and labeling of bike routes
* pedestrian-bicycling building standards legislation

Feico Kempff, Maurice Loridans, and myself had a great meeting last week--if a bit smaller than usual--with Brady Blade, the assistant director of economic development for Mayor Glover.

This past Monday Feico and I met with Don Shea, Director of the Downtown Development Authority to talk about Texas Street and the cultural district.

We'll report on that meeting on Tuesday as well. In a nutshell, though, both Brady and Don were very encouraging, and Brady is even headed to the International Council of Shopping Centers convention next week partly to work towards the ends we've discussed.

As usual, we'll meet at Centenary Square, across the street the George's Grill, room 206. Enter from the parking lot in back and you can't miss us.

The coffee will be fresh!

ABetterShreveport profiled in "Voices" newspaper

Thank you April Reynolds for your fine article about us in this week's Voices newspaper! Always nice to get press like that.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Preservation of Historic Shreveport Meetings this week

A list of meetings from Teresa Edgerton-Scott on downtown historic preservation:

If you are in favor of preserving the historic districts and buildings in Shreveport, now is the time to make your voice heard. The importance of historic preservation ordinances will be discussed at both the City Council special session called for this purpose and at the regular meeting of Parish Commission. Frank B. Gilbert, a national expert on preservation and the law, will be in town next week to try to jump start legislation in Shreveport to protect historic sites. Please try to attend and invite others.

Special Session of the City Council, Tuesday, May 5, 2:00 pm, Government Plaza--the National Trust for Historic Preservation consultant, Frank Gilbert, will be there discussing the need for ordinances to protect historic properties. This meeting was called just for this purpose. Jean Sayres, his local host with the Louisiana Trust, has urged me to get as many people as possible to attend this special called meeting to show support for historic preservation. We need to show the council there is grassroots support for this initiative in Shreveport. If Highland can't turn out for such a cause, then we are in trouble. Shreveport is the only large city in La that doesn't already have Historic Commission and ordinances to protect historic properties.

Mr. Gilbert has an extremely busy itinerary next week in Shreveport. Sue will be accompanying him on driving tour of Fairfield and Highland Historic Districts upon his arrival. Monty Walford and Matthew Linn will have meetings with him prior to his speaking to their respective "groups." I have his resume and other information provided by Jean Sayres should anyone want to see it.

Regular meeting of Caddo Parish Commission, Thursday, May 7, 3:30 pm, Government Plaza--Mr. Gilbert is first on their agenda and will speak for about 15 minutes, then answer commissioner's questions. Again, it would behoove us to have as many people there as possible to support idea of preservation in Shreveport.

Please rearrange your schedules if possible to attend (as I have had to do during this busy time of year at my work) these meetings. Invite other people who are interested in preservation to attend as well. It is time to be proactive, rather than just respond to problems as they arise.