Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Repurposing public space

In the article linked below, the author tells us about reuse of golf courses in many cities, and even uses the Big Lake at City Park as an example of one example of reuse. Even though New Orleans is mentioned, do remember that reuse is an idea that our city government almost never entertains. The project mentioned is one that the city government had no control over or cash invested in; relatively speaking, it has turned a cold eye and a deaf ear to the needs of public space almost entirely.
That may be a major difference from many other struggling cities; the lack of forethought to take something not working in the public arena and turn it into another that has use. Cleveland, Detroit, Madison, (even Abita Springs!) among many others are all adding useful public works to their cities; we seem to just hand our spaces over to developers again and again. And let me say that I am not talking about nets for group sports and fancy benches at every corner; sometimes we need to take a space that has been a trash heap and allow neighbors control. Or relax zoning to allow specific types of farming or art projects to exist without massive permitting or taxation. Or maybe just fix the damn sidewalks.

The city does have an opportunity to change that attitude with the Lafitte Corridor Greenway project. So far though, it has seemed much of city government hampers this rather than helps it. On top of that, the destruction of good housing along its length continues to make way for more resource-rich citizenry to live along it, all under the name of blight-reduction. The Greenway can be a turning point to think green while also making sure the small-scale and many levels of income remain in the middle of the city if we focus our energies to do more than make a bicycle path or a volleyball court along its length.

Utne Reader

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