Crowds gather in front of The Company Burger on Freret St. as owner Adam Biderman hands out hamburgers for free Thursday, Sept. 3, 2012, while most of Uptown waits for power to come back. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)
Freret Neighbors United president Andrew Amacker talks with residents during a crowded neighborhood meeting about a security-district proposal at Samuel J. Green Charter School. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)
When more than 100 Freret residents gathered in the Samuel J. Green Charter School cafeteria in March to discuss a proposal to use a property-tax fee to hire private security guards for the neighborhood, the meeting had every appearance of a textbook example of gentrification and its painful fallout. Two white people sat at a table marked “FOR,” two African-Americans sat at a table marked “AGAINST,” and a room full of other black residents argued bitterly against what they saw as the secrecy of the proposal, about their sense of disenfranchisement amid an influx of “new residents,” and about the rising costs of merely remaining in their homes.
Given the explosion of commercial growth on Freret Street — from only a single restaurant four years ago to 14 blocks of highly-lauded cuisine, new entertainment venues and businesses ranging from a dog-groomer to a craft-cocktail lounge — concerns about gentrification should be expected. But after that heated meeting in March, the proponents and opponents literally walked away from the school building together down the sidewalk, relying on relationships and respect forged over decades to find a middle ground — suggesting that, perhaps, something is different about what’s happening on Freret. Continue reading »