Saturday, December 30, 2006

Repopulate Downtown

American Zombie recounts a “depressing rumor” which outlines a scenario in which major downtown hotels leave New Orleans:
Imagine a Canal Street with two to three towering empty lights, no people...nada...just dead, monolithic, hulls. Combined with our inability to get adequate flights into the city, it could be a 1-2 knockout punch to our convention industry: no way to get here and nowhere to stay when they do get here. We've already lost one major convention (Microsoft) due to the lack of flights...I think that single issue could set off a chain reaction into oblivion.
As I am not a fan of the tourism industry, this doesn’t really depress me. If these “dead, monolithic, hulls” were bought by HANO/HUD and redeveloped as mixed income (meaning a fair amount of low income) apartments for rent or purchase, our housing problem would be solved. Canal Street would blossom as a retail center because all the new residents would need services, like places to buy groceries, wash clothes, buy things for the house, buy parts for the car, etc. Tourism service jobs would be replaced by retail jobs and people would be able to live close to where they worked. Restaurants would stay in business because residents like to eat out, too, though they won’t be able to charge tourist prices.

Repopulate downtown. It would solve the lack of housing and it would promote development in a section of the city that’s high and dry.


Anonymous said...

Yo, Po'!

Could you expand on why you're not a fan of the tourist industry? As a recent tourist (who has fallen for your city hard), I'm curious.

da po' boy said...

My problem is not with tourism itself or tourists themselves, but the fact that our economy relies on tourism. It is our number one “product.”

I don’t think the tourism industry treats its employees well. I admit that my personal experience colors the way I see the industry. When I worked in the industry, I was in college working towards a degree. So, I was okay with the low wages.

But I met a lot of people who worked in the industry as their career job. It wasn’t okay for them. They didn’t make enough to support their families. Some aspect of their life always suffered.

The tourism industry contributes to our working poor. That’s my main problem. I also question the economic benefit to the region. The tourism industry boasts that it drives the economy. Well, it is the economy. It’s the only game in town.

The tourism industry needs some competition. We need a better educated, more skilled, higher paid populace. That won’t come if we continue to rely on the tourism industry, which does not require highly educated, highly skilled, highly paid workers.

The industry says: “Each household in Louisiana would have to spend an additional $2,969 annually, if the New Orleans travel industry did not exist.”

I would argue that each Louisiana family pays even more for all the problems caused by a city that relies on low-paid jobs to “fuel” its economy. The tourism industry also gets a lot of paid incentives and tax breaks from the government as well as taxpayers’ money going towards marketing for their “product.”

New Orleanians are more than just the world’s servants. What makes New Orleans good for New Orleanians – the food, the fun, the music, the atmosphere, the love – also makes it good for the tourists. We don’t have to bend over backwards for tourists to come here. They came before Katrina. They’re coming now. If tourism was our number one or number ten industry, they would still come and have a good time.

ashley said...

I'm for what you're proposing, but the Canizaro's of the world will not allo HANO/HUD to buy these, when they can make money off of them as condos/timeshares.