In The News › BGR: Analysis, not politics, should guide development

Dec 22, 2005

Source: Biz New Orleans

BGR: Analysis, not politics, should guide development

December 22, 2005 02:39 PM

NEW ORLEANS — The Bureau of Governmental Research today issued a
call for the city to wield a firmer hand in decisions about its future.

A commentary released today by BGR President and CEO Janet R. Howard
notes that many owners of damaged homes who are hoping to rebuild are
finding their efforts thwarted by slow or no decision-making on the part of
governments and other entities charged with laying the groundwork.

“One of the critical decisions – what parts of the city will be open for
redevelopment – rests in the hands of local elected officials. It is an
issue calling for a clear, realistic resolution. Unfortunately, it is the
subject of an emotionally charged debate,” the BGR report states.
In the report entitled, “Wanted: A Realistic Development Strategy,” BGR
comments on three approaches to redevelopment decision making seen
thus far. One is the Urban Land Institute’s recommendation that
redevelopment proceed in stages, in core areas that are connected to one
another.

The report refers to the City Council’s approach is being “that the entire city
should be opened immediately for simultaneous redevelopment.”

Finally the report cites “a laissez-faire theory” that citizens be allowed to
rebuild anywhere in the city within a specified period of time, and that the
progress of development at the end of that period should guide development
decisions thereafter. BGR recommends dropping this approach because it
only adds to the uncertainty about the future and would force homeowners to
make major decisions in the absence of vital information.

“While purporting to empower residents to rebuild, the approach denies them
the fundamental assurances needed for rational investment,” the report says.

“It serves the public poorly, turning home owners into unwitting speculators
and leaving the City’s development pattern to chance. It also damages the
credibility of the current planning effort by deferring a key decision.”

The report says that the city “owes its residents a plan laying out exactly
which parts of the city can be rebuilt and when.” An analysis of physical and
demographic realities should guide the planning, and political considerations
must take a back seat, BGR says.

“As members of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission have pointed out,
any credible plan must deal with a harsh reality: a dramatic reduction in the
population for the near and medium term,” the report states.

Noting that future population estimates suggest New Orleans may be as
much as 45 percent smaller within three years, BGR points out that the city’s
infrastructure is designed to accommodate many more people.

“Unless the city’s plan addresses the mismatch between the city’s footprint
and its population by initially directing development into more compact areas,
the outcome will be random, scattered development in a sea of blight,” the
report says.

“No one relishes the challenge of prioritizing the reconstruction of one area
of town over another. But it would be irresponsible for our leaders to ignore
the facts and the predictable outcomes of a strategy that doesn’t address
them,” the report concludes.

By Kathy Finn
The Biz Network
kafinn@cox.net

Dec 22, 2005

Source: Biz New Orleans

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