Once upon a time:
A diarist on DailyKos refers us to WalkScore.com, which offers a walkability index based on your address (which, in Alexandria’s case, doesn’t explain anything).
I bring all of this up for a reason:
Part of recapturing your City’s inner core requires the creation and development of walkable, scalable areas. It should be a natural side-effect; increased retail and commercial activity along an area like Bolton Avenue can serve several different neighborhoods in a walkable setting. The development of the Lakes District as a mixed-use community can increase opportunities for nearby residents of Claremont and Charles Park (after the Versailles Extension is complete). We may not have walkable neighborhoods right now, but with proper planning, we can mitigate that problem for future generations. One of the most radical proposals I have seen calls for a continuous greenbelt across the City, tracing the lines of Bayou Rapides and Bayou Roberts and snaking throughout town. We have ample opportunities to create a truly walkable community; it’s a matter of shared commitment.
An example of a walkable neighborhood
My house gets a score of 52 out of 100, which is average, because of my moderately close proximity to:
Clothing & Music
An average score might seem to indicate that I have an “average” level of walkable access to nearby resources. But the problem is that I live on a street without sidewalks and the nearest drug store, restaurant, and bank are all located on a major arterial.
Now, let’s compare that to a random sampling of other addresses in town:
Charles Park: 14 out of 100
It’s no surprise that Charles Park ranked so low. Although the neighborhood itself is walkable, it’ll take a drive in your car to buy groceries or a cup of coffee. As a side note and for the purposes of irony and full disclosure, my great-uncle Charles White and my grandfather Paul White developed Charles Park, and my father developed Charles Park Extension.
I believe the neighborhood should consider adaptive commercial reuse possibilities along its most heavily-trafficked gateways (many of which are located outside of the neighborhood itself) as a way of addressing this issue.
I may be biased, but I think that the neighborhood– with its expansive boulevards and mixed-income housing units (i.e. Berkshire Apartments)– could become a good walkable community, provided the allowance of different zoning districts along its outer reaches and major collectors.
Alexandria Garden District: 38 out of 100
Again, the Alexandria Garden District is a traditional neighborhood development, and it is also inherently “walkable,” though some streets do lack adequate sidewalks. The reason it scored so low, one would think, is because most retail and commercial activity occurs in other, non-contiguous areas of town.
Still, the Alexandria Garden District remains as one of the State’s best neighborhoods, and its potential for future activity is limitless.
Downtown Alexandria: 65 out of 100
Not a surprise that Downtown scored the highest, although no neighborhood in Alexandria is truly walkable. The problem with Downtown: No one lives there.
But once people are finally given living opportunities, Downtown’s walkability score will likely increase.
Lower Third: 40 out of 100
Lower Third is Louisiana Highway One, and the neighborhood itself is a series of new cul-de-sac developments and small subdivisions. Sidewalks are intermittent, and due to the construction of I-49 and the Pineville Expressway, much of the area is choked off from the City’s inner core.
With the expansion of Sixth and Foisy Streets and the development of the Lower Third streetscape project, this area will also likely become more scalable and walkable.
Samtown/Woodside: 28 out of 100
Honestly, Samtown/Woodside could have easily scored a zero. Most streets do not have sidewalks, and in addition to that, streets are often far too narrow. Moreover, like South Alexandria, Samtown/Woodside has very few neighborhood retail and commercial opportunities.
The Sugarhouse Road extension will squarely focus on increasing transportation access in this critical area of town, and because of this, hopefully, the area will receive a much-needed boost of commercial and industrial development, which, in tandem with smart planning, can create a walkable neighborhood.
South Alexandria: 60 out of 100
Do not be deceived. South Alexandria contains essentially no retail or hospitality opportunities. The construction of I-49 dead-ended numerous streets. Sure, it is in the middle of town and technically close to surrounding resources, but practically all of these are located outside of the neighborhood.
One of the main reasons the neighborhood contains little retail opportunities is because much of its housing stock is blighted and substandard. An aggressive expropriation policy (which is currently being developed) along with an aggressive home ownership initiative (a component of SPARC) are desperately needed to address these issues and transform the neighborhood.