Dec 142011
 

A large sign announcing the still-stalled Freret streetscape project. (Jean-Paul Villere)

I live and work in the Freret corridor, and for many moons now promises of a new streetscape have been on the horizon.  Most recently, the collective residents and business owners were informed by the city just weeks ago the start date would be some time in early November.  Look at your calendar.  It’s the middle of December, and not a bit of concrete has been disturbed.

Jean-Paul Villere

So what gives?  Misgivings and misinformation, that’s what.  While informed of the November start time, come to find out now the contractors who then promised diligence and adherence to non-disruptive work with a signed agreement with the city still and presently have no signed agreement apparently; hence, no work.  Puke now, if you like.  Feel better?  I don’t.

First of all, let’s define “streetscape.”  Sounds fancy, no?  It should really say “sidewalks.”  Well, some sidewalks.  And trees.  Or some trees.  And grate removal.  But no street repaving.  None.  Zero.  Nada.  Zip.  Which really contradicts the whole street part of streetscape, because the street isn’t being touched.  When in reality the most challenging part of navigating Freret isn’t its sidewalks, it is in fact its street.

The rift at the corner of Valence Street. (Jean-Paul Villere for UptownMessenger.com)

Pedal much?  I do.  The corner of Valence and Freret on the Uptown/River corner has a wicked rift of a bump, and if you aren’t paying attention, expect to introduce your hindquarters to the asphalt.  Or what was once some definition of asphalt anyhow.  So with a price tag that’s dwindled over many fiscal quarters to just around a cool half million, my question is this: why exactly are paying for something we really don’t need and why can’t this funding be applied to an entire, all encompassing reboot?  I mean it hasn’t even started yet, and the longer it takes, the less sense it makes.

Should we lump it and settle for a bastardized version of a facelift?  Better question, do we have a choice?

Freret has been the golden boy for all manner press of late, and hey, that’s great, but c’mon isn’t a total resurfacing in order?  What irks me more is just yesterday I am sent an email informing me that from the ashes of the early 1990s, the Krewe of Freret is returning.  “We’re getting the band back together,” said Elwood to Jake.  And again, hey, that’s great.  Only we still have these crappity crap crap streets with no hope for nothing in the crystal ball for their resurrection.  I for one could get way more excited about the return of the KofF if only the city wasn’t try to sell me a streetscape that is neither street nor scape.Bleech!

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and the Du Mois gallery on Freret Street and father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also writes an occasional real-estate blog at villererealty.com and shares his family’s adventures via pedicab on Facebook and Twitter.

  9 Responses to “Jean-Paul Villere: Where’s the ‘crete?”

  1. Frankly I’m scared of whatever the future brings. Freret has been a great neighborhood the years I’ve been living here, since before the “renaissance”. Now everyone talks about Freret as if we need people to come in and “revitalize” the neighborhood.

    The resurgence in businesses is terrific, but the whole attitude now is off. Chip Anderson, part-owner of High Hat, perhaps demonstrated it best when he told the Times-Picayune, “The boys at Cure, they were the trailblazers. They were the guys out here with the machetes, cutting down the jungle. We’re the ones in the covered wagons coming in after.” Can you imagine a more crude metaphor? People lived here and still live here since long before Cure was a thought in anyone’s mind! And many of the businesses that have opened along Freret, Cure and High Hat among them, are priced far out of the range of those living in the neighborhood. (The T-P credits Cure with starting the trend, but I’m fairly confident the Poboy Shop and Saritas, both more appropriate for the neighborhood, were open before Cure).

    Neal Bodenheimer, co-owner of Cure, offered Gambit another telling quote: “But I think what this neighborhood needed was a jump-start and it’s been the restaurants and bars that provided that. There are tourists walking around Freret now coming to these places, and it wasn’t that long ago when that just would have been unbelievable.” This is a neighborhood, not a tourist destination. And the businesses close up at the end of the day, but residents are still living here, keeping Freret vitalized.

    Now the city wants to come in and “fix” the street. I agree with you, Freret needs a brand new coat of asphalt. But are you so sure that’s what the city will do? We saw what happened to Oak Street. As the city government claims Freret for its own, it will reduce parking like on Oak, install meters where now they don’t exist, all of which will push parking into the neighborhood. Valence is already used as a thoroughfare and a parking lot for visitors, and I don’t think we can handle any more traffic. So once the city gets around to addressing that issue, they’ll likely establish neighborhood parking zones and force all of the residents to buy permits, increasing revenue both through permitting and ticketing.

    Don’t get me wrong, it has been exciting to watch Freret grow. And in my opinion, some of the businesses are really helping the neighborhood (Poboy Shop, Saritas, Las Acacias, Freret Paint & Hardware, Zeus’s, Crescent City Comics). But if we allow our neighborhood to be turned over to the likes of Anderson and Bodenheimer, who want to, in their minds, gild the area to make it more legitimate, we risk losing the Freret we’ve grown to love altogether.

    -Neighborhood resident

  2. Wow. Really? Really? Every once in a while you see a perfect example of the backwards thinking that has ruled in our city for too long that has held us back. I would love to have a neighborhood resident from O. C. Haley Boulevard write a response to the concerned Valence street resident. With all due respect I suspect you are a C.A.V.E. person- Citizen Against Virtually Anything.

    Cheers for progress (yes, this is what is happening on Freret) anywhere and everywhere in our city. Increased property values, improved safety, more active community involvement, more sales tax revenue, more jobs for neighborhood residents, and an increased sense of community pride are all positives for what is happening on Freret.

    These easily outweight the negatives of less parking and…someone saying your street used to icky?

    • Agreed. These commercial corridors (Freret, Oak, Magazine, etc.) can only function properly if there are profitable businesses located on them. The idea that Freret was somehow better when it consisted of only empty, decaying buildings and a few businesses that sold cheap items is ludicrous.

    • Agreed. Property values are artificially low for such a beautiful, historic and architecturally intact neighborhood that’s also extremely well situated for getting around. If some residents are priced out because property values rise to be more in line with their actual value, then so be it. Nothing says a neighborhood must remain permanently low-income. Half of those properties haven’t had a paint job in 50 years.

      Development is good. Money isn’t the enemy. And above all, life isn’t fair. I can’t tell you how often I’ve moved because landlords have raised my rent.

      Just don’t tear down historic properties!

  3. Yeah, filth, crime, & lack of businesses is very “cool” & funky. Your post is ridiculous. That street was a dump 5 yrs ago. I used to own a house on Valence & if you consider murders & drug deals “culture” then you are spot on. Gimme a break “Neighborhood resident.” Oak St looks awesome now.

  4. I (and everyone I know) second Da Channel’s remark. So sick and tired of the DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING mentality that some folks have. Valence Street probably wishes Friar Tuck’s was still open and much of the rest of Freret was a ghost town.

  5. Wow, you people are so unbelievably ridiculous. Not only are all of you hyperbolic but you can’t seem to read either. Go back and read that residents statement. He never called crime “cool” or “funky” and he never said that he wanted to the community to move backwards. In fact, he congratulated the majority of new businesses as being positive for the neighborhood. His complaint, and as another Valence St. resident i must agree, is with the characterization of our freret neighborhood as a JUNGLE before a bar that charges $10 a drink opened up. I mean, most the of residents of Freret work for $10 an hour. I know that you people think working for such a humble wage is a CRIME but I on the other hand congratulate the residents of my neighborhood for being the backbone of our city: blue collar workers.

    It also sounds like theirs a good amount of generalization happening amongst all of you. WE ARE NOT CRIMINALS. WE ARE CITIZENS OF NEW ORLEANS. Just because we live in a low income neighborhood doesn’t mean that our neighborhood has to be bushwhacked. I honestly couldn’t think of anything more offensive to say about a historical, hundred year old community. I live in a house that is over a hundred years old. This community was here, vibrant, loving, and alive long before Cure and those shitty and overpriced restaurants showed up. AND PS- I can afford to eat and drink at those place but I don’t, because they are pretentious and frankly low quality. I also can afford to live in another neighborhood but I don’t because I enjoy my neighborhood: where grandma’s watch over school children playing, neighbors throw block parties and know each other’s names, and where I am looked after by my fellow neighbors.

    We’re not a Jungle we’re a community and we don’t need fixing.

  6. The development of Freret is great, no doubt about that. But supporting the improvements shouldn’t mean turning a blind eye to this clearly problematic (and arguably class war / racist) statement:

    “Chip Anderson, part-owner of High Hat, perhaps demonstrated it best when he told the Times-Picayune, “The boys at Cure, they were the trailblazers. They were the guys out here with the machetes, cutting down the jungle. We’re the ones in the covered wagons coming in after.”

  7. Jennifer,

    Thank you. I can not believe the responses to ValenceRes’s posting. It is clearly a well articulated and thoughtful post. Backward thinking? Please! ValanceRes presented more critical thinking than any of the responses.

    I agree. The true mom ‘n pop shops on Freret are a beautiful thing. Dat Dog, Poboy and Donut, Beaucoup Juice.. I support them all! None of these places are run down or crime ridden- they are the result of honest hard work and entrepreneurial vision- void of political pull, corruption, or bribery (all which still go occur at high levels in this city).

    Not that I have anything against Cure, High Hat, or Company Burger. The problem I have is that they are creating a facade for the neighborhood. Most people that live in the area can not afford to drink at Cure or eat at High Hat. I have heard boasting that Freret Street is now high-brow and classy. This is a farce, a costume. There is still blight all along the street and poverty in the neighborhood. Freret Street may be trying to cover the truth instead of actually fix things, and that is not sustainable. I do not want to see a class war or snooty pretension on Freret Street. I want to see a synthesis of different incomes and businesses working together. I still have hope that is the direction Freret will go in.

    That jungle comment is blatant classism. I am shocked!

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