hit tracker <body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d23615820\x26blogName\x3dCenLamar:+A+Blog+on+Life+in+Alexandri...\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://cenlamar.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://cenlamar.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d7276229209213654946', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Revisiting the Sports Arena And Other Observations on Alexandria's Future (Warning: Rant Alert) Way back on August 2nd, the Town Talk published an article about plans to build a multi-use sports arena near the Pineville Expressway. The proposed site is eligible for Superfund money, because it is currently listed as a public health hazard (and has been on the EPA's national priority list since 1999). The Superfund program is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. At the time, most of us dismissed the need for such a facility, pointing out that Alexandria already has a multi-use facility in the Rapides Parish Coliseum and that the City should be focusing on other projects instead. But perhaps in our haste to form a consensus, we missed a crucial point: This site has been deemed environmentally hazardous, and it needs to be cleaned up. Indeed, this need has been nationally documented for nearly seven years. And what's more, the federal government will literally give us money to redevelop and clean up the site. There's a reason I'm revisiting this issue. The City of Alexandria is currently attempting to convince the Southwestern Athletic Conference to locate their headquarters here. We're competing against several other Southern cities, including Shreveport, Houston, Dallas, Jackson, and Birmingham. During this process, it is important for Alexandrians to recognize that this "bid war" is indicative of the type of competition we are up against all the time, and although our location represents one key asset, our lack of facilities ultimately may prove to be our own undoing. From today's Town Talk:

"Some cities don't want to host everything," Sharp said. "Shreveport has great facilities.... They possibly would be able to host championships in all 18 sports that we offer."

At least initially, Shreveport appears to be a viable contender among the bidders: the SWAC wants 20,000 to 25,000 square feet of office space for its 12 employees, roughly $400,000 a year from local businesses and use of area sports venues for its conference championships.

I believe that our new airport has set the standard for Central Louisiana's future, and as such, it is critical to complement our airport with other activities and facilities that add to our overall quality of life. Many believe that Alexandria should instead be focusing its attention toward the construction and development of a riverfront marina, which is perceived to be a more important project. But such an opinion (which I once held) is based on the assumption that Alexandria is only capable of doing one thing at a time. It undermines our ingenuity, our resourcefulness, and our ability to multi-task. The only way Alexandria will grow effectively and become competitive in attracting jobs, events, tourists, and industry is if we're all on the same page. There are some hard truths we must all recognize:
  • Our workforce is getting older.
  • We're having an incredibly tough time attracting and retaining young people.
  • Cities like Shreveport and Lafayette are competing for the same jobs, conventions, and events. And they're doing a better job than we are.
  • If we only grow one way, we'll be starving off the rest of our city for years.
  • There are several influential opinion-leaders in Alexandria who undermine efforts at inclusive growth by wrongly insisting that "value" is limited to a certain area of town. (This is perhaps our greatest stumbling block-- convincing those leaders and businesspeople that their opinions represent an antiquated understanding of the ways in which 21st century American cities must grow in order to remain competitive).
Pardon me for being a young know-it-all punk, but we need to face reality. If Alexandria can't attract and retain young people and if we can't recognize that we're only as good as our worst neighborhood, then it won't matter how nice our airport is-- we'll still be suffering. Last week, I referenced an article from the NY Times about cities competing over the "cool factor." The "cool factor" may scare some people here. But it's important to remember that cities create their own individual definition of "cool." What's cool in Portland or Providence or Austin may not work here in Alexandria. So we'll need to figure out what will work. And that's where the blogosphere can play a role. I understand that some people don't believe in downtown revitalization. They think it is a waste of taxpayers' money; they believe that the City shouldn't invest in "dying neighborhoods." (Strange and selfish logic). In case it's not already obvious, I completely and totally disagree with those who dismiss downtown. And there are plenty of good reasons:
  • Downtown cannot be replaced by a "new area." Some people, including the Town Talk, are calling 28-West the "new downtown." In my opinion, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what downtown really is. It is the home of our great institutions- banks, churches, and courthouses- and these institutions do not simply pack up and move to another area of town just because of a new, handsome subdivision.
  • Downtown Alexandria is centrally located and on the Red River. (It's inherently valuable property).
  • Downtown Alexandria is intuitive. It's walk-able. It's a reflection of the basic principles of smart growth.
  • It contains many of our most historical and architecturally significant buildings.
  • And most importantly, thriving downtowns attract industry and young professionals. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: When a visitor arrives in Alexandria, their impression of our overall health is based on two things: our airport, which is awesome, and our downtown, which is struggling but emerging.