Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Petula Clark Is Downtown

When you're alone
When you've got worries,
All the noise and the hurry Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles,
forget all your cares and go Downtown,
things'll be great when you're Downtown,
no finer place for sure,Downtown,
everything's waiting for you...

Hyatt Hotels is planning a major overhaul of downtown New Orleans.
Under the plan, two state office buildings, city hall, the city hall garage, the New Orleans Shopping Center and parts of the Hyatt would be demolished to make way for a park anchored by the National Jazz Center. City hall would move to the Dominion tower office building, state office buildings would be rebuilt at the site of the Civil District Court building, and the entrance of the Hyatt would move to Loyola Avenue.

The multi-level six-block park will include a 20,000-square foot jazz performance center with seating for 1,000 people, a smaller theater with seating for 300, a children’s theater, workshop, rehearsal studios available to local musicians and an archives for jazz research. The Canal Street streetcar would be extended down Loyola Avenue, connecting the park, sports facilities and public office complexes with the French Quarter and Convention Center.

The result will be a swath of green space leading from Tulane Avenue to the sports complexes of the Superdome and New Orleans Arena surrounded by modern buildings designed by renowned architect Thom Mayne in association with local architect Ray Manning and others. Developers on a panel convened by Hyatt and working with other stake holders from New Orleans envision an area that will be an internationally known destination for the arts and tourism which will be used day and night.

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra will be based at the Jazz park, which will also be a destination for national touring jazz acts.The project could give lift to the adjacent medical corridor, to long-discussed notions of creating an entertainment district on South Rampart Street and to redeveloping the nearby Union Passenger Terminal. It could also help New Orleans lobby the National Football League for another Super Bowl.
For thirty years, this part of downtown has been dominated by the Superdome and City Hall. It's typically a busy place because so many people do business there. What is missing is is the atmosphere that dominates so much of other parts of the city where people frequent for reasons other than business.

I also think that this will make New Orleans even more attractive for more sporting events in the future. New Orleans has hosted more Superbowls than any other city mainly because of the Superdome's proximity to the French Quarter. If an outdoor complex can be created around the Superdome, this will create another anchor downtown (the other being the French Quarter), the area between these two "magnets" can see growth in activity as people no longer look for the quickest way to get to the FQ, but rather visitors meander from one anchor to the other and visiting shops and restaurants in between. Much like a mall where shoppers go to Macy's and JC Penny but stop at some of the smaller shops in between. Look at it like the world's largest outdoor mall.

UPDATE: Seymour D. Fair at The Third Battle of New Orleans offers more background and insight.


Mark said...

So, the first question that came into my mind this morning: modern architecture. What are your thoughts given the "character" of this part of town? With Charity and University possible lost forever, having just about anything there to address that area of the CBD would be good.

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