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.

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