Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ideas for the American Sector

I've always wondered why so many "business leaders" in New Orleans want to compare this city's growth and development with ideas that "work" in Houston and Atlanta. I've always thought that NOLA would do far better to investigate ideas that make Athens and Savannah work.

Case in point is the new "parking garage" the city of Athens is building at the corner of Lumpkin and Washington Streets downtown. Take a look and see if you can tell me what part of this building is a bad idea.

For refrence, this building will occupy a space that has been a combination of flat, asphalt parking lots (in varying states of repair) and a small brick Bank of America drive-thru stall. There was an old brick building on the lot years ago, but it was taken due to its state of disrepair.

Know any parts of New Orleans that fit that description?

The new building's plan surrounds the historic Georgia Theatre, and develops the block to the east* of the historic Morton Theatre.

The plan adds needed parking to an area of downtown (and the parking situation in downtown Athens is far more business and resident friendly than NOLA's current American Sector/CBD parking junta), with spaces for retail, offices and a public art gallery (!?!) Lastly, it should complement - with the street level retail spaces - the walkability of the Lumpkin-Washinton Street corner.

And the building should look like a building instead of a parking deck. Go see the visuals.

That sounds like triple-win to me.

* - The original post erroneously labeled the development to the west of the Morton, when the Morton is west of the development. Thanks to Sprout for calling me out publicly, and Meredith for calling me out privately.



patsbrother said...

Correction: The plan develops the block to the east of the Morton.

I'm all for it, although I generally disapprove of more things that tall being downtown. I also hope those windows it does sport on that top level are the type with regular-sized panes (as opposed to the giant-paned buildings on South Campus).

I don't know exactly what ideas about growth and development NOLA's business leaders want to borrow from Houston and Atlanta, but I hope those ideas don't have much to do with city planning. Magically they have stumbled upon the two cities in America most likely to end up as the "what not to do" examples as far as city planning goes. Immulating them on that would be dumb. D-U-M dumb.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Yes, east. The new west. My bad.

Dante said...

I'm interested in hearing more about the public/private partnership here. I'm very leery that this project will end up being mostly paid for by Clarke County while Clarke gets the unprofitable end of it (parking garage) and the developer gets the profitable bits (office space and living space to rent/lease).

The project itself I have no problem with except perhaps that there will be a serious impact on traffic on that block. Washington and Clayton are both already One-Way so that should help.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I see it as ACC getting the least risky end of it (parking, which is always in demand) and the developer getting the more risky end of it (spaces for retail/offices). It ain't like ACC is going to lose money on this deal.

I don't think it will have too much of an impact on traffic, seeing as how the College Ave, Courthouse and North Campus decks are able to work well next to two-way streets.

Dante said...

If parking garages were the better end of the deal, more private developers would build them and run them privately.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I'm not saying that.

I'm saying the the possible profit margin is higher on the business spaces, but so is the risk. The parking part of it is less risky, but stands to make less money overall. I still don't think ACC will lose money on the deal, but they won't make as much from the parking itself.

They will do several things with this, however:

-provide a needed service at a lower cost;

-develop a revenue stream outside of taxes;

-increase tax base by creating more valuable property downtown where none existed before;

-increase sales tax revenue created from those new business spaces.

So, yeah, if it takes involvment of a developer to help build and rent out the business spaces, it is well worth it from the ACC's side of the partnership.

patsbrother said...

If the private business owns the space and ACC owns the building and the property, how will creating more valuable property increase the tax base? ACC doesn't pay property taxes to itself.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...


Dante said...

So I wonder how long it will take the developers to unveil a new whole-block model instead of the *batteries not included model now that the Georgia Theater caught caught fire? Does that fire seem fishy to anyone else?

mominem said...

When I moved to Louisiana in the mid 60's 40+ years ago our peers were Atlanta and Houston.

Today our population/economic peers are Baton Rouge and Birmingham.

The Savannah Metropolitan area is about 1/3 the size of Greater New Orleans.

Athens is less than 20% the size of the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area and includes 30,000 students at UGA.

At one time New Orleans was the third largest city in the country.

The relative decline of New Orleans has been evident for at least a century.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

The thing that sets NOLAn development very far apart from Houston and Atlanta development comes down to the simple problem of room to expand. The thing that sets NOLA apart from BR and Birmingham are civic priorities.

Savannah, as I have noted on this blog before, can be a model for anyplace that considers historic preservation a priority. I hope we're not looking to BR and Birmingham for that.

Athens is a model for economic infill of the city core, and out of all the cities mentioned, probably has the most business friendly government with resepect to local priorities.

Athens and Savannah also have vibrant cultural economies of musicians and artists supported by various dynamics around each city.