Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Opportunity's cost

Sometimes I think if we collected all of Jean-Paul Villere's columns into a book we'd have to call it something like, New Orleans: A Vulture's Eye ViewHere he is picking over the carcass of the Jackson Avenue Ferry Landing. 
A couple of weeks back my wife and I found ourselves idling at the stoplight at Jackson and Tchoupitoulas and as my eye surveyed the very familiar intersection, this tiny sign came into view.  I squinted and realized it was a “For Sale” sign on the chain-link fence enclosing the long shuttered building on the corner.  I thought it was joke or prank on par with the “guzzled” hoo ha that just unfolded in the metro area till I went home and Googled it.  And lo and behold, the ferry landing was (is) in fact for sale.  And if you’ve got $1.65 million then it could be yours too.
I drive by that spot fairly often myself. When I see it I think about how different the city might be had we not abandoned a public transit cog that could connect Uptown pedestrians and cyclists to Gretna.

Here's a recent edition of Vice Magazine which featured an interview with (fairly) famous sons of the West Bank, Ballzack and Odoms. The article opens with a brief description of their background in the isolated "suburban nothingness."
Ballzack and Odoms rap mostly about the West Bank, which is the big chunk of New Orleans that exists across the river from the city’s more renowned areas. “The Wank,” as East Bankers call it, is a much different creature than the French Quarter. Though lacking touristy charms, the West Bank is nonetheless deeply New Orleanian—while walkability and unique flavor defines New Orleans as y’all know it, the West Bank is like most of America: big, busy roads and strip malls. Meaning you need a car. Meaning until you’re 16 years old, you’re stuck. For a decade, Ballzack and Odoms, both in their 30s now, have been making music that harkens back to their West Bank childhoods and the art of conjuring fun out of suburban nothingness.
Think about how different that picture might be with regular ferry service.  The roughly 3/4 mile between the Westbank 'burbs and the Uptown oaks would be much less a barrier to commerce and exploration.  Commutes would become easier. Owen Courreges wouldn't accuse us of "conspiring to landlock Uptown."  Gretna Fest could be accessible to untold numbers of  Eastbankers starved for quality entertainment.  Maybe we would bore one or two fewer teens.  A lot of stuff would be different.. and mostly better.

These are the things that flash across the mind when one happens upon a  For Sale sign posted to a piece of public infrastructure like this: A crumbling social contract, the physical and symbolic divide between the gentrifying city and the creeping poverty of its suburbs, the pain in the ass NOPD speed trap just around the corner from there on Tchoupitoulas behind the Wal-Mart.

Villere's real estate column, though, comes to rest on the "once in a lifetime opportunity."
My greatest curiosity remains who the bidders will be, what their intentions are, and ultimately what the winner will do with it, but unfortunately from here my guess is we may only ever know the latter.  I suppose for what is being offered the sum sought might seem relatively affordable.  In terms of real estate inventory, the “one of a kind” tagline really works here as really, is there anything else like it?  And if there is, what are the chances that it too would be for sale.  Like a late night screening of the Twin Peaks movie at the Prytania, an acquisition such as this may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Me, I think I’d make it an office; what would you do with it?
A "once in a lifetime opportunity" to open an office. Way to think big, I guess.  At least no one has suggested we use it to dock the "party boat."

1 comment:

hopitoulas said...

Wonderful look at the intrinsic dignity and value of the subject itself, and an appropriately devastating take down of money grubbing, clueless hipster punks like vulture Villere.