Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bus Bike Racks, Texas Avenue Community Association. and Downtown Development Among Topics at Well-Attended Meeting April 19

Lots of people in attendance at the April 19th meeting: April Warren, Sarah Savage, Maurice Loridans, Carolyn Manning Lamar Wright, Him Broyles, Susan Keith, Mark Hand, Matthew Linn, Feico Kempff.

The topics discussed were:

  • Routes for Bike Lanes and Sharrows
  • Coming Bike Racks on Buses
  • May 1st "Tramp in the Park"
  • Coates Bluff Nature Trail Maintenance
  • Texas Avenue Community Association
  • Downtown Development for Residential Spaces

Here are the rough notes:

Routes for Bike Lanes and Sharrows:

Will need to paint both north and south-bound routes for sharrows; need 3 times as many sharrows per mile as we currently have on Creswell route. Painted sharrows from last year is fading -- need better paint this time; Mayor Glover has promised his help in getting us good paint, and we have approval from Mike Strong. Also need volunteers to help and a warm day. Preferably the day would be one where its rained recently cleaning the street and where it won't rain soon in the future so it'll dry.

Lamar commented on how Milicent could use help, and Maurice said it would be good target for the future. First finishing the initial project from Creswell to downtown should be a goal, though. A friend recently lost the route because of not enough sharrows.

Coming Bike Racks on Buses:
Loren reported on the news from Ian Webb and Gene Eddy that bike racks will be available to use on city buses starting May 12th (officially being unveiled at 12:30). Many were excited at the news, though some said they'd like to buses to run more frequently to really be effective means of transportation when paired with bicycles. Loren said he'd heard Gene say in a Transportation Work Group meeting for the Master Plan that he was well aware of that problem and wished he had a budget that would allow more frequent runs (Gene rides the bus himself, as you might expect of a good bus administrator).

"Tramp in the Park":
May 1st is still set {though later canceled due to weather!} for the first ABS meeting/picnic at the future site of Shreveport's first dog park. Cynthia Keith is still working on getting Barbara Jerrel to come, but Dan Garner's coming with his axe, so others are invited to bring whatever instrument they'd like, as well as lawn chairs or blankets.

Texas Avenue Community Association:
David Nelson updated the group on the Texas Avenue Community Association. (And btw, check out their terrific new website!) He said they have been developing partnerships with businesses there, have done some fundraising, have set up 501c3 structure, and members have been attending the master plan meetings. They are working with the Shreveport Historic Preservation Society and other groups to take advantage of the rich historical character of the area that hasn't been brought out to this point. The group is also looking into the federal main street program--started by Mary Means who's a partner in Goody-Clancy. The corridor could eventually extend to the fairgrounds eventually, but they're first concentrating on the area to the east. They see as a walkable, mixed use, residential community. Susan Keith has put a copy of a research report she did on the history of that area at the library at the state fair grounds (do I have that right, Susan?).

Maurice asked if someone wanted to open a bike coop there, wouldn't getting it up to code be the first step? David said "I wish." He said one task is often tracking down ownership. He said there's a lot of property that's adjudicated, and there are a lot of environmental issues such as underground fuel tanks -- they've been working with the D.E.Q. on that. Many property owners have moved away, and they've been working with assessor's office to find out who and where they are. David noted that they're beginning to accumulate sympathetic owners; also that 75% of the buildings are in use there.

The group discussed with David how zoning allows for residential and commercial uses in that area, national historic landmark and national register status.

The group also discussed how the DDA has been mostly focused on the central business district, but has wanted to extend a cultural arts district to the areas noted on the map.

Downtown, the Homeless, and Development:
The homeless population downtown was discussed. One person said they thought the certain groups did everything they could to stop the building of a place to house the homeless. Currently homeless people they can sleep in one location but are flushed out during the day and have no place to go but the streets. It was said that some homeless people want to be homeless. It was also said that cities like New York, with denser development and more active pedestrian spaces, have supported marginal "businesses" of selling recycled books and magazines run by homeless people. These homemade, temporary "stores" have helped some people move off of drug and alcohol addiction to self-rehabilitate.

Turning to downtown development generally, it was noted that coordinators help developers plan that process; Fort Worth had a development kiosk where developers could go have their interests integrated and coordinated with other projects and an overall plan. The main street u.s.a. program is like that, and its apparently on the table with the DDA.

(Later that week, as it happens, Loren and Mark had lunch with Sherricka Fields of the Downtown Development Authority, who said the DDA would like to develop more of a relationship with ABetterShreveport. We were enthusiastic about the idea, and saw lots of ways in which synnergies could develop.)

Jim talked about he recent history living in DC not owning a car; ride bikes and subway and use "zip car". To apply a denser, bigger city experience is worth going for; can let free market cap run free and let people "pillage"; but one way streets in and out of downtown seem to indicate the city is just a site of pods used for work. He saw a need to jump start residential community, such as with a destination shopping place; or with gas station and grocery store. Jim has a background in banking and said that for a project to get financing you need to show what the comparable sales are; when it's just limited, the bank won't buy in; to give a developer confidence in what's there, though, an organization could come along side and say this is what it could be; pioneer investors are needed to partner with that type of organization.

When it was mentioned that the reason Whole Foods and other such stores won't locate here, particularly downtown, is because the average income level in the city is too low, Mark Hand said that we shouldn't try to answer questions that we don't have the right answers to, but ask a different kind of question: how can it happen? He gave the example asking children if a paraplegic person can drive a car and they'll answer no, but ask how a paraplegic could drive a car and they'll come up with lots of ways in which they could. It's the same question for downtown; it's not a matter of whether, or if, but how.

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