I’ve taken some criticism over my opinion of downtown revitalization on another local blog, Quint Carriere’s Cenla Antics, located at cenlaantics.blogspot.com. Mr. Carriere’s blog, for those who have never visited it, essentially behaves like an unmoderated bulletin board, in which posters anonymously express opinions in an unorganized, cascading fashion. It’s actually very interesting reading, though it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of the narrative.

Regarding downtown revitalization, critics on Cenla Antics seem to have missed one very important statement made on my original post: Downtown revitalization is already happening.

During the past four years, downtown has seen an influx of millions of dollars in private investment, and there are plans for millions more. On any given weekend night, you’ll witness scores of people walking down Third Street. It’s hard to ignore.

Pardon the hyperbole for one second here:

Finnegans Wake is the finest pub in all of Central Louisiana. Its owners have spent thousands and thousands of dollars of their own money renovating the space– and it’s paid off. In addition to attracting hundreds of people back into downtown, the owners of Finnegans have also helped foster the local arts community; private art showings are a frequent event. They’ve brought in bands from all over the nation, bands that play to sell-out crowds. And they’ve worked with Jonathan Stokes and Renegade Cashew Productions to bring in stand-up comedians, creating a real comedy scene here in Alexandria. Once again, they’ve done this all with their own money, ingenuity, and belief in the merits of downtown revitalization.

And then there’s Horatio Isadore, owner of House of Java and the River City Market and co-owner of Alex 1805. During the past five years, Mr. Isadore and his business partner Destin Harris took a very simple concept– a homegrown coffee shop– and turned it into a destination spot for young people. Indeed, House of Java is not just a coffee shop anymore; it’s an institution, a meeting place for businesspeople and young professionals, a gallery featuring a wide variety of local art, and an intimate music venue– a favorite of singer-songwriters.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Isadore expanded his enterprise and, along with GAEDA, created the River City Market, a weekly arts and crafts open air market in which locals sell everything from handmade soaps to fresh produce.

And last year, Mr. Isadore and John McGee opened up Alex 1805, a quiet jazz lounge on Third Street. Alex 1805 has also become a destination, and if you doubt its relevance and its popularity, stop by on New Years Eve. Isadore and McGee have already sold scores of tickets for their first-ever Casino Royale Night, a large-scale New Years Party featuring blackjack and poker tables (proceeds of which will go to charity), a balloon drop, and entertainment from a fantastic New Orleans band, Government Majic.

Last night, the Tipitina’s Foundation held its grand opening ceremony– a three-hour long affair attended by close to one hundred people. Three local singer-songwriters– Wien Denley, Mark White, and Aaron Sibley– each played a thirty-minute set of original material to a packed audience. Afterward, concert-goers paraded down Third Street and into the Tipitina’s Foundation Office on DeSoto for a formal reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was a great demonstration of a new and emerging music scene in Alexandria– and yet another sign that downtown is back. Kudos to Ben Mahoney, Martin Johnson, and those who had the foresight, two years ago, to convince Tipitina’s that Alexandria needed its presence.

To my critics on Cenla Antics, you seem to have fundamentally missed the point. Perhaps this will be treated as a statement of “undeserved arrogance,” but when my assertions are being countered by accusations of “socialism” and personal attacks (By the way, my grandmother goes by one name, not two. And she doesn’t have blue hair), I can only conclude that you’ve misunderstood me.

No one is advocating socialism. I am not peddling anyone’s property (and neither I nor any member of my family owns property downtown). Believe it or not, I don’t even have a real estate license. One critic on Cenla Antics accused me of regurgitating the beliefs of the latest trendy books. Another one said that I am advancing antiquated, centuries old theories. All I am saying is this: Downtown revitalization is good for the entire community. It’s good for our growth (as a check against uninhibited suburban sprawl), and it’s good for our quality of life. And guess what?

It’s already happening.

4 thoughts

  1. corner office,the private club owned that i own, moved its location to central downtown in march of 2006 from an established location that had been in business for 18 years as a private club, to support and help build the downtown social life as well, in which i spent personal moneis to remodel myself to add to a quality atmosphere that the downtown area has been in need of for a as long as i can remember, being employed at the hotel bentley for 11 years before its closing we have always had quite a struggle with promoting the night life to out-of-town guest that wanted extended stays other than the hotels. i am very proud of and excited to invite anyone that i can to come and visit all operating facilities downtown that offer quality night entertainment, day time eateries, tours, shopping that they can do at my gift shop located downton, as well as other shopping facilities. despite the non-recognition of my efforts, i’m i hope that in the near future i can do more that will invite out of town guest and locals to appreciate and enjoy our downtown.

    kechiee thompson

  2. I was doing a search online to get the correct spelling of Horatio Isadore’s name and ran across your blog. Both the owners of Finnegan’s Wake and Horatio Isadore were nominated by the Historical Association of Central Louisiana for Preservationist of the Year 2007. You are right, both owners have put time, effort and money into downtown revitalization and the best part about it is that they are young. Come on Cenla, let’s get on board.

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