After Jacques Roy’s recent win, the citizens of Alexandria and the new administration have been tasked with creating a new nexus of commerce and opportunity in Central Louisiana. What lays before us is a severity of tasks that, in essence, should vitalize and expand our community through the concept of smart growth. On top of this, we face numerous factors that could potentially hinder the conceptual mechanics of smart growth.
First, let’s discuss smart growth itself.
Smart growth can be defined as a mixture of compact land use, green space, and transit friendly, centralized urbanization policies that bind the development of growth space to a singular region. The basic philosophy is to set forth a revitalization of city-space by relocating activity to its original core–the downtown. This requires long-range planning, equality in the funding of projects, and judicius decision-making on the parts of those in city government. As such, smart growth relies on a number of coordinated partners whether they be developers, city councilmen, or investors.
One of the main problems that affects the theory of smart growth involves total cooperation. A good city government that sees the importance of smart growth as its projected goal is the main dream. What we may see though is a of cooperative siding on part of the city council and the mayor’s office. For one, business interests and a lack of creativity on the council’s part may only serve to impede advances posited by the mayor’s office. The council is bound to serve their constituents, as well as their own, interests.
If the past trend holds true, the council will still eye HWY 28 as their logical expansionary location. This, combined with sweeping growth in Pineville and Woodworth, distracts from any centralization in the Downtown area. It has to be noted that for this plan to work, the city council has to uniformly attempt to work with Mayor Roy on improving the Downtown and actively ignoring interests that detract from this area.
A secondary problem that is encountered involves reasonable, economically diverse living space. Currently, Alexandria does not bode well in terms of attracting new residents to live in the areas around Third Street and Upper Jackson Street. The problem boils down to the lack of available affordable housing that surrounds the area as well as the high crime rate that has persisted the area in the last three years. If the city government were to move to establish housing in the area as attractive and affordable, then perhaps others would seek to relocate to a more central location. This could be undertaken through the policing of the area and the development of condominiums and townhouses that offer citizens a cheaper alternative to living outside of the area. Also, if we could establish a connection with three vital economic centers (Rapides Regional, the Courts, and LSUA) then we could use the living space in the area to attract workers/students to live amongst the downtown. This could be a three-fold event:
Step One: Offer Rapides Regional workers (especially singles) a lower rate to live closer to work.
Step Two: Invite smaller businesses to set up shop in the neighborhood so that may cater to the lunch/after work crowd of lawyers and judges who do business in the area.
Step Three: Relocate the Humanities Department of LSUA into the Downtown while also building dormitories along the Red River.
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“Step 3” is already happening, with some LSUA classes having started during the fall semester. The business entrepreneurs of “Step 2” and residential mavericks of “Step 1” will make their moves when the police force begins the community policing initiative they talk about and puts a beat cop on the streets of downtown. How about a cop on horseback? That would add some old town romance and provide a catalyst for human interaction between citizenry and police. It would also be a good way to maneuver the levee park area.
We had mounted patrols with the APD until earlier this year. I another brilliant city cost-saving move they decided to get rid of them. This happened only a few years after they spent tons of money to build a new stable for the horses at the city logistics comples at the port. As always no one in charge has the vision to see that the image of a mounted patrol is worth a little expense. A city, any city needs an image — something that makes it unique in the market of communities. We unfortunately don’t have much of this, at least not much anymore. And, everytime we pave over (asphalt over the red brick street – thanks ned), tear down, or cost-save what little heritage we have left away we lessen our ability to gain strength as a community and compete for our foothold in the region.