Thursday, August 13, 2015

Meanwhile in Cummingsville

Exciting new projects are in the works.
A line of Bywater warehouses along a railroad track would be converted into apartments, restaurants and a bustling hub for creative workers under a new project local developer Sean Cummings is pursuing.

The project site at Press and Chartres streets sits across from a recently renovated 1830s warehouse that's part of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
"Creative workers" is one of the more unfortunate market segments we've managed to fabricate.   Anyone can be "creative" though not everyone chooses to monetize that facet of themselves. There's something both condescending and weird in the supposition that we consider those who do as their own special class in need of its own walled off community.  Are you an firefighter?  Are you any less of a firefighter because you do not live in a high rent apartment complex full of firefighters?  Why should this be any more true for artists?

Besides "Creative" as a professional descriptor is, in practice, really a euphemism for people who consume a high quantity of pop management theory. You're not getting into Cummings' place without a steady and substantial paycheck from someone, after all. But if you do, congratulations. You'll be helping to "revitalize" the warehouses into "an epicenter for creativity" featuring the following amenities.
  • 220 apartments, including one to three bedrooms, lofts and townhouses, with rents set at both market and affordable rates. 
  • Eight studios for master-craftspeople.
  • Two "pocket parks" inspired by courtyards at Feelings, CafĂ© Amelie, Bacchanal and Satsuma locally and courtyards in Havana, Cuba, and Sicily.
  • An art gallery and street murals by artists Brandan Odumns and Damon Martin.
  • An urban farm along the railroad called "Hobo Farms."
"Pocket parks" are all the rage over in Cummingsville. Look how fun those are. The built-in gallery and murals are all just more "planned vibrancy" for to inspire the treps and innovators who will be your neighbors. I don't know what a "master-craftspeople" is. Perhaps that's you. Do you possess some sort of quaintly hip-retro skill? Do you make wooden wheels? Can you pickle a fruit?  What about "urban farming?"

For the uinitiated there, urban farming is a hobby some "creatives" have where they re-purpose urban spaces into cute patches for growing one's own fruits and vegetables in pursuit of a greater, more "authentic" locally produced diet and affected lifestyle.  Which is utter horseshit from an historical perspective. Sociologically, though, it's really just another self-indulgent luxury; conspicuous literal consumption. Here's Jules Bentley in an Antigravity article from a few months back. 
In a blog entry on eatlocalchallenge.com, Julie Cummins, the Director of Education for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, addresses criticism of how unsustainably expensive it is to “eat local.” She acknowledges a study by Dr. Adam Drewnowski that gave scientific imprimatur to what should be common knowledge: people with very little money buy foods that are cheaper and more calorie-dense, i.e. junk food.

That study finds that “Whereas a daily energy ration of… ~2400 [calories] from added sugar and fat could be purchased for under $1, the energy cost of lettuce or fresh strawberries… was several hundred times that… in fact, calorie for calorie, fresh spinach is more expensive than luxury chocolates or foie gras.”

After calculating the difference in what it would cost to fulfill her daily caloric needs with donuts ($2) vs broccoli ($20), Cummins angrily bemoans a world in which processed food is “artificially cheap,” then concludes, “we need to be willing to spend more on what we eat.  Americans now spend just under 10% of our household budget on food, which is less than just about any other country in the world… if a car, a cell phone, and lattes are worth the expense, how can we skimp on food that’s good for our bodies and the planet?”

We need to be willing to spend more! That’s her diagnosis: we’re thoughtlessly neglecting to pay enough for our food… and if I had a nickel for every thinkpiece I’ve read in which poor people were urged to save money by curtailing their alleged latte habits, I’d be able to afford a fucking latte.

I quote her because there, laid bare, is the deeply reactionary “personal responsibility” politic at the heart of the Eat Local Challenge. By positing an unrealistically pricey diet as the only responsible path (and a meaningful environmental gesture), the Eat Local crowd implicitly condemn the poor, those with the least power and fewest choices, as somehow being the problem.

So you can see why Sean Cummings's new luxury development has to include an urban farm experience.  It's an in-demand amenity.  That they've named their luxury amenity "Hobo Farms" isn't even irony.  It's more of a direct insult.  I'm starting to think this is the new strategy in branding. Just go the whole nine.

Hello I'd like to build a coal refinery right here on this playground.

Hmm what will you call it?

Dickensian Belchworks


This is post-Orwellian marketing. Instead of misdirecting you from the fact of gentrification we just rub it in your face now and challenge you to object.

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