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The Alexandria Riverfront Center A few months ago, I wrote about a brainstorming session I attended at the Alexandria Riverfront Center. The Alexandria/Pineville CVB invited around thirty people, most of whom were associated, in some way, with local government, to talk about ways to improve and better utilize the ten-year-old Riverfront Center. I'm not sure what, if anything, was culled from that meeting, but recently, I was reminded that the Riverfront Center is a critical issue in any discussion of Downtown revitalization. Many people believe the primary problem with the Riverfront Center is that its controlling body, the CVB, charges too much to rent out convention space. They suggest that the CVB engages in trade favoritism with the hotel and motel industry, at the expense of local small businesses and charities who could also utilize the space, if only it were less expensive. (I don't know enough about the situation to draw a definitive conclusion, but I still find the theory interesting). They consider the CVB to function like a "lobbying group" for local hotels and motels. (If this is the case, then I wonder why Bob Dean's former manager at the Bentley once told me that one of their main problems was drawing in oft-promised convention business). Either way, I think we need to take a fresh look at the Riverfront Center. We invested a ton of money in the Center, and already, it's in jeopardy of becoming outmoded. People in the hotel business will tell you that most hotels undergo dramatic interior "changeovers" every seven to ten years; changeover is just a euphemism for redecorating. They do this because collective consumer tastes CHANGE in time, and for their business to stay profitable, they must be able to identify and accommodate those changes. It seems to me that a convention center must also make periodic reinvestments in its decor and design in order to stay competitive. Recently, we've all been a little distracted by the plans for a downtown sports arena. I don't want to draw any conclusions about the merits of this project without first knowing where exactly we're getting the funding for it. That said, it's obvious that, at this point, planning a sports arena should not be the top priority of Downtown revitalization. I tend to agree that we should be focusing on the most obvious component: the Red River. Earlier this week, two houseboat owners, Mr. Fine and Mr. Guillory, spoke to our City Council about the incredible potential of the Red River. The City had recently decided to evict all houseboat owners who docked their boats on the Red River. Personally, I'm a little baffled by this. If they couldn't find a written agreement between these owners and the City, then what exactly is the harm in trying to create one? They're already planning a marina, and these agreements, we hope, will become necessary anyway. But getting back to the point: Both of these gentlemen understood intuitively why riverfront commerce and revitalization makes sense. Mr. Fine envisioned condominiums, cafes, and boutiques; Mr. Guillory spoke about the profitability of a pier with a full-service fueling station. Which brings us back to the Riverfront Convention Center: I wonder what the candidates think about its future. I wonder if the community would support investing money for improvements and even expansion (the outside patio area, I am told, hasn't been fully-completed). What do you think?