By Sandra Bright
In the next few weeks, residents of the Lower 3rd community will have many issues on which to decide and participate in. A legislative proposal by District 26 Rep. Herbert Dixon for establishment of a TIF district to include the Lower 3rd community will be voted upon in the state legislature. The forces for and against the TIF are busy rallying their supporters. State Sen. Joe McPherson has already voiced his dissent against the TIF as has District #3 City Councilman Charles F. Smith in whose district the Lower 3rd area encompasses.
As with any new plan that will change the landscape of a town or area, great debates are going on as to whom or what entity this TIF will benefit. The members of the motel/hotel association voice their opinion that the TIF is a smoke screen to give the Hotel Bentley and Alexander Fulton Hotel unfair advantages over them; others in the business community pronounce that the TIF will levy additional taxes on the population least afford to pay them. Other points of dissention are that the TIF proposal has not been fully explored and that the plan was hastily pulled together; still others say an additional economic development board that would be established by the TIF is one too many in lieu of two other additional economic development boards already in place in Cenla.
Proponents on both sides will be inundating the Lower 3rd community residents with data related to their positions. The savvy consumer must do some research on what’s best for them, their community and city of Alexandria overall.
Having been a resident of the Lower 3rd community all my life, I see an area of great decline compared to what it used to be. Illegal drug use and selling has invaded a community that was once family friendly a couple of generations ago. Dilapidated housing, convenience stores that sale alcohol as their major source of revenue, accumulation of garbage and trash that litter the streets make the neighborhood look like a place in a third world country. Along with the decay, there are bright spots in the community. New housing units being built-even though they are rent to own (rent for 15 years before the house can be purchased), senior apartments on Willow Glen River Road and a planned water park for Cheatam Park; and finally clean up of the toxic waste site at the Ruston Foundry.
What are lacking in the community are consumer friendly businesses such as a drug store, grocery store, outlet or strip mall stores, boutiques. If the TIF proposal will bring in much needed businesses into a community that has been neglected for so long by the citizens themselves as well as the local and state elected representatives, then I am all for it. If not a TIF, what will bring economic development into an area that has not seen any in many years? Sometimes when people have no incentive for doing better, a spark in the right direction can inspire a person as well as a community to become motivated for the better.
This is what I am hoping for Lower 3rd-once an incentive begins, it will snowball into the residents cleaning up and improving their properties and working to eradicate the drug problem in order to attract businesses. Each resident of the Lower 3rd community is a stake holder and should voice their opinion pro or con for the TIF. Even if the TIF was not proposed, the issues of what the parent governing body of the city can and should do to help this area recover should be in the forefront for economic development. When one part of the body (city) is broken or diseased, eventually it will affect the rest of the body.
On April 21, 2008 at 6 p.m. at the Broadway Resource Center, a public meeting will ensue regarding the reuse status of the Armour Building located at the corner of 3rd and Xavier Streets. This building shares an adjourning wall with the 20 room efficiency apartment complex known as Olive House-a permanent residence for persons who have previously been homeless. The Armour Building along with the former warehouse into which the Olive House was transformed was donated to Inner City Revitalization-a non profit organization whose goal is to provide affordable housing in inner city neighborhoods. Funding for the Armour Building was depleted during construction of the Olive House.
Funding sources to complete the plans for the Armour building have been almost non-existent until a proposal was submitted by Inner City for a CBG (community block grant) from the City of Alexandria thru HUD for the FY 2009. Along with that proposal came a survey to see if the Armour building fit into a historical preservation category. Local and state historical preservationists validated that it did and declared it an historical site worthy to be preserved. The problem with this designation is that the local and state preservation agencies do not have monies available at the present time to allocate to restoring this property. HUD money cannot be used to tear down a property once it has been declared historically significant-only to restore it. The amount of money needed to restore this building for reuse into apartment is in the 1.6-2 million dollar range. If the building is “deconstructed” and rebuilt from the ground up into new apartments, the price is considerably less.
Another important issue of an urgent nature is that the roof on the Armour building has been in disrepair for many years. Water leaking from the holes in the roof soak into the Olive House community room causing flooding and crumbling of the brick common wall that the two building share. Engineers have issued urgent warnings about the stability of the roof such that immediate attention to a replacement roof is urgently needed. I have concerns that if persistent heavy rains occur, the roof and adjourning wall will cave in and cause harm to a resident (s) of Olive House. On April 21, 2008, citizens of Alexandria are urgently needed to come out and voice their opinion on reuse of the Armour Building-deconstruct and rebuild a new apartment complex from the ground up with funding from HUD or wait years on funding for restoration that may or may not be forth coming. Also, another possibility is, if a TIF is implemented in the Lower 3rd area, funding can be sought for either restoration or deconstruction and rebuilding. Citizens call, e-mail or write your comments to on the Armour Building reuse issue:
Inner City Revitalization
1902 Main Street
Alexandria, LA 71302
Sandra W. Bright
Alexandria, LA 71302