Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New Orleans is once again behind the curve

A lot of cities are starting to realize they've been grifted by urban development companies who take taxpayer dollars in order to build nice things for tourists and rich people.
But at what point should cities make this decision to stop subsidizing for-profit development? And how do they know when enough is enough? That’s the question being asked in Kansas City and in cities around the nation as downtowns bounce back from years of abandonment only to find that developers still expect the aid they were receiving when downtowns were far less profitable places to be.

“Urban leaders still tend to overpay for development because they internalized low civic self-esteem bred by decades of being told they were too polluted, too dangerous, or too school-deficient to attract investment,” says Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, an organization that advocates for economic development policies that lead to better job opportunities for working families. “When the back-to-the-cities trend started taking root, albeit very unevenly, cities were so glad to finally land deals that they routinely overpaid, not having a solid grasp of the demographic and market forces they should have been channeling instead of subsidizing. It’s especially true for retail and entertainment projects, which generate very poor-quality jobs. I have yet to find a city that has figured out how to ‘take the foot off the pedal’ and stop over-subsidizing, even when gentrification becomes a problem.”
That is pretty spot-on. If I were asked to sum up the root of all of our city's political evils in one phrase, "low civic self-esteem" would probably be a winner. New Orleanians imagine their city to be the most corrupt or the most dangerous or what have you when the conditions they describe are really quite common. This, in turn, leads to all sort of bad decisions impelled by a desperation that isn't really all that necessary.

One thing we really are bad at, though, is learning from others' mistakes before it is too late.
The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center may have found private developers to help carry out its ambitious plan of developing 47 acres of vacant land at the upriver end of the giant meeting hall into a hotel, residences and restaurants.

The facility’s governing board has given the staff permission to begin vetting a proposal from a joint team of the Howard Hughes Corp. and local developers Joe Jaeger and Darryl Berger that includes, among other things, a plan for 250,000 square feet of retail, food and beverage space along the river from Henderson Street to Market Street.

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