Monday, January 3, 2011

Downtown Parking vs. Suburban Sprawl and Dog Park Among Topics at Last ABS Meeting

(Shown at right is a sign with the kind of attitude you gotta love. Some dog park rules are shown below.)

In attendance: Maurice Loridans, David McCormick, Cynthia Keith, Loren Demerath, Carolyn Manning, Robert Currie, Feico Kempff

A LOUISIANA PROHIBITION OF BREW-PUBS?

We discussed the difficulty of having brew-pubs in Louisiana. Bob Carbone of “The Beer Slayer” in Grand Cane, Louisiana sells supplies and brews beer, and is the head of Urban Diuretic Spargers. Apparently there are laws in the state that restrict the distribution of alcohol in such a way that makes it virtually impossible to have micro-brew pubs in our state, where in other states they are flourishing. It was suggested that we write a letter to state government representatives recommending a change to the laws. Other states do it; we can be seen as backwards or behind-the-times for not having them. The quality—even the nutrition—of the beer tends to be much higher at brew pubs. Eagle Distributing and Glacier are the local distributors, we’ve heard that our laws are to protect their markets. But brew pubs would be good for small and local business. In Dallas we’ve heard they enhanced the sales of the bigger brands. Brew-pubs are good for the profile of a community, and they appeal to young people who in our region are often “thirsting” for appealing social environments. There is the question of whether our market would support it. But, this appears to be a state-wide moratorium on what has been successful elsewhere. Notably, there’s the Tammany Trace bike path that goes right by the brew pub of Abita in Abita Springs. Covington has a brew-pub too.

NEED FOR MILESTONES IN MASTER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION

Robert Currie thought there were two different perceptions of the Shreveport Common. Those at the meeting thought there was enough parking. Some feel the Master Plan hasn’t delivered on being able to get loans for living downtown. An art gallery and some other people that have not been able to get loans. People feel like the issues have not yet been addressed to change the stigma of downtown. Parking, crime, etc. The 2010 program was not successful? Currie noted that we need milestones set out to achieve with time lines that show our progress towards the Master Plan’s vision.

Demerath shared that Jeff Everson will be chairing the Master Plan Committee, and that he would like to discuss with ABS at some meeting early in the new year about how we can help in the Master Plan’s Implementation. Demerath noted ABS helped in the process of making the plan and its basic principles have been echoed in ABS meetings since the organization’s beginning.

HOPES OF SPRAWL TO BE THWARTED AND DOWNTOWN CORE REVITALIZED

Loridans responded to Currie's concerns about parking and said if we’re going to make our city about catering to the automobile, it’s not going to get much better. He shared memories of a past scene (and a current one—in other cities) of coming into downtown and letting the kids go with some spending money and meeting back later. There was no interstate then. But they changed the parking patterns, introduced the highway, and it has all changed.

Loridans, as a former manager of a downtown building, has seen people leave for parking; monthly fees of $100 downtown, when you can get it for free on the beltway. But parking is not the problem that is in other cities. There is new free public parking behind the Methodist Church on the Texas Avenue side of Municipal Auditorium. According to the DDA’s web site there is 12,000 parking spaces downtown, but it wasn’t known if that incorporates the new parking to the southwest of the Church.

Currie agreed, and asked what do we do to attract people to downtown and the non-car oriented life-style. We’re obese and people don’t choose walking. But Demerath noted that it depends on the city or the environment. (He later was in Cambridge, Massachusetts and walked for miles with his family with no complaints—the environment was pedestrian oriented.) McCormick asked what happens if you increase public transit and decrease the availability of car transport. It was noted that London’s congestion tax did that, and Bloomberg is considering the same thing for New York. In Shreveport we don’t have the downtown congestion to do that at this point, but there are other ways of increasing the incentive to walk. Putting desired destinations in walkable spaces is one such as downtown is one.

It was noted that Shreveport has doubled in size over the past fifty or sixty years but maintained the same population. Parking and driving have been what have drawn us outwards, and have deprived us of a walking-oriented, socially rich environment downtown. But other cities have revitalized their cores. We need to make it a desirable place to be.

McCormick noted that for recent graduates and other young people there’s a bad taste in their mouths about Shreveport; they think there’s nothing to do. There is stuff to do like Maker’s Fair, Christmas Under da Ground, ABetterShreveport, etc., but on small scale.

Success does happen with public-private partnerships, such as the Boardwalk. Loridans saw a City of Bossier truck changing the light bulbs at the boardwalk, so they are servicing a private development.

Currie noted that the other 98% needs to be listened to. The mindset needs to be changed. The students brought up things from way back that we’ve known. But we need to listen to these things more. Currie thought the Master Plan meetings didn’t have a lot of people attending, though Demerath disagreed, thinking the participation level was excellent relative to the norm for such things.

DOG PARK DISCUSSIONS PROCEED

Cynthia Keith shared news of her recent meeting with Shelly Ragle and Catherine Kennedy who’s been designated as the lead of the dog park project for SPAR. She said she went in how can we help you, SPAR, make this happen. Had a map of Hamel’s Memorial Park. She’d talked to someone in Houston who recommended that it be at least 10 acres. Tim Wachtel was sent to measure the largest area he could and came up with a 8.7 acres. It’s now just a proposed area and park.

(Since this meeting, Cynthia and Steph have seen that Memorial Park is often flooded. Further, the initially proposed Veteran's Park and Stoner Boat Launch area already has bathrooms and is closer to residential neighborhoods and downtown. The site is therefore being reconsidered.)

Charles Grub who is the Parish attorney and was a city attorney is going to help with the ordinance that dogs can run leash-free in designated areas. Ragle is going to let Jenkins decide what the city needs to do and what others need to do. They need running water and closest place to tap into is across the parkway by the old Hamel’s park. They discussed partnering with the parish, and it appears the city and parish will be partnering. The director of the animal shelter called during their meeting and he and the assistant director came and joined them. They asked the questions they were wondering about, are you on board with this, and they are. They had questions about how it would affect them, but they found that there aren’t many calls for animal control out in at dog parks. Originally SPAR wanted dog parks throughout the city, but Ragle stressed that this one would be a social place where people gather; it would be the premier dog park. If you want a quick exercise for your dog you’ll take your dog one of the local off-leash fenced areas that might be located throughout city.

Everett Harris said they euthanize 77% of their animals and wants to reach the public through the dog park, with posters or something. There will be events there and opportunities to further the interests of animals in our community. They discussed needing tags for dogs and even needing vet records or vets who would be paid $5 per dog. Ragle would like to form a committee. We can run getting the grants through ABS, or have them donate to a fund of the city’s. If it were held by ABS, it could be a special account where funds would be deposited then go right to the city from that account. “Doing Business At” is an alias that we could make for “Friends of the Shreveport Dog Park” that could be within the 501 of ABS. If we do the extra tag deal, they could later say its not getting used enough. SPAR has been researching it and they’ve found dog parks that do use tags.

By the way, here is a set of dog park rules from Elk Park, California, fyi:













ABS REPRESENTED ON RED RIVER DISTRICT ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Demerath reported he’d been asked to serve on the Red River District Committee, and that he was honored to serve. Loridans said parking killed the Red River Entertainment District because it wasn’t obvious enough you could use casino parking. The casino didn’t want a sign saying people use it freely without going to the casino. Bears has a sign pointing people to parking in the back that doesn’t seem to work.

Due to the coming holidays, the next meeting will be Monday, January 3rd.

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