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


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.


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.

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.

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. 

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!

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!

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