Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is I-49 Discourse Biased and Unfair?


This Monday the group will discuss the new charter high school that is to be built off Clyde Fant near Magnet High School, as well as review the progress and plans for the dog park.


In attendance: Kim Mitchell, John Perkins, Charlotte Crawley, Jennifer Hill, Maurice Loridans, Murray Lloyd, Feico Kempff, Lani Duke, Matthew Linn, Loren Demerath, Brain Salvatore, Alan Dyson, Kathryn Brandl

This past week our meeting was devoted to discussing plans for I-49 cutting through the city via a parkway/boulevard, or an interstate.  It was noted that while urban planning of fifty years ago was pro-interste, the current state of the art favors a more permeable city layout.  Cities such as Oklahoma City and Chattanooga are now dismantling interstates that cut through their centers, or as Boston has done, putting them underground.  The idea is that downtowns and inner city neighborhoods are better served by more permeable, multi-use routes such as boulevards and parkways.  The areas of Shreveport around Herby-K’s or Fertitta’s Delicatessen are examples of how once vibrant areas can be destroyed by an interstate
The once vibrant area by Fertitta's

It was also noted that every city is unique, and what works well in one site wouldn’t in another.  (There’ll be no “Big Dig” in Shreveport copying what Boston did, for example; not with the height of our water table.)  To best fit a city’s unique situation, community meetings are supposed to guide the planning process.  

There was dismay expressed that what were supposed to be meetings for community input may have “therapeutic” sessions meant make citizens feel as their desires have been considered more than they were.  This is a common problem in urban development, as Arnstein’s class “Ladder of Participation” shows.  Following urban planning research, it’s been noted at ABetterShreveport meetings in the past that the strongest changes to city structure are those that have the support of the people, and that happens when they’re most involved.

There was also the concern expressed in the meeting that people are personally biased towards certain routes and may not be holding the interests of the city as the priority.  That can go both ways, of course, and several of the attendees at this meeting acknowledged they’re emotionally invested in not cutting through Allendale with an interstate because of the relationships they’ve made with people there as they’ve tried to rebuild the area with the Fuller Center.  But being invested in rebuilding communities that have suffered and helping disadvantaged populations within Shreveport would seem to be preferable to being financially invested for personal profit.  It appears there are those who have bought up property on the speculation that the interstate will go through there, after which they will be able to sell their land at a profit.  
A recent Allendale house built by the Fuller Center

But regardless of if one is socially or personally invested, one would think fair play should be the rule, and the interests of the city as a whole should the criteria for honestly assessing ideas.  The charge was made during the meeting, for example, that one of the web pages devoted to discussing I-49, (the one first called “Through the Heart,” then later changed to, “I-49 Through the City”), has taken down comments critical of the interstate cut-through model.  It was also charged that the main sponsor of that page, who works for a P.R. firm, had not provided the source of a study he’d cited in favor of it of the interstate model.  As an alternative, the facebook page “LOOP It I-49” has been formed.  That group sees it self as a “learning community,” and encourages anyone to join them.

Next week, on Monday, October 26th, we’ll meet again from 6:00 to 7:00 on the new high school being built by the Magnolia charter school, and get an update on the dog park, as well get briefings on the I-49 topic and anything else folks might bring to the table.  We meet at the Wright Math Building on Centenary’s campus at 2907 Woodlawn, 71104.  All are welcome!