Clancy DuBos: A Model for Economic Development Initiatives | Clancy DuBos | Weekly Gambit


The latest push in the long-delayed effort to get the New Orleans BioDistrict off the ground offers an example of how citizens seeking to protect their neighborhoods and business leaders hoping to launch large-scale economic development initiatives scale can both achieve their goals. It’s both a cautionary tale and a budding achievement – if things stay on track.

To do this, citizens must remain vigilant and promoters of economic development must be open to the contribution of the district, even if it means slowing things down. Neither is easy.

the BioDistrict was created by state lawmakers in the spring of 2005, but lay virtually dormant for more than a decade in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Until 2018, it lacked significant political and civic support, which deprived it of fiscal resources.

After the University Medical Center and VA Hospital opened, efforts to revive the district began to gain momentum, but issues of finances and political support remained unresolved.

Amid recent news that Tulane will be the anchor tenant of a redeveloped Charity Hospital building, BioDistrict executives hoped to kickstart things by signing a Cooperative Effort Agreement (CEA) with the city to, among other things, generating revenue for the district.

That’s when alarm bells started ringing in Mid-City and Gert Town. The district has an enormous footprint—running from Loyola Avenue to Carrollton Avenue, Iberville Street to Earhart Boulevard—and constitutionally granted power of expropriation (as a “political subdivision” of the state created by the law).

Mid-City residents remember all too well how LSU and the city seized much of their neighborhood to build the UMC and VA hospital after Katrina. Many fear the BioDistrict will gobble up what’s left, along with Gert Town.

They started making noise. In response, City Council President Helena Moreno delayed consideration of the proposed CEA in order to address neighborhood concerns. To its credit, district management quickly agreed to incorporate significant changes into the AEC to protect homeowners. Changes included requiring council approval for all expropriations – and neighborhood contribution to other district initiatives.

“Energizing the BioDistrict is an opportunity to turn a new industry into a jobs engine, and I will ensure we do this while adding major protections for our neighborhoods and controlling our own destiny,” Moreno said in a statement. communicated. “It’s a win for New Orleans.”

Moreno plans to introduce a revised CEA on December 16, with the board’s review scheduled for January 6.

BioDistrict Board Chairman Andy Kopplin, who also heads the Greater New Orleans Foundation, said the district never intended to take over private homes — but he noted that the expropriation is “a legitimate concern given the neighborhood’s post-Katrina history”. He added that the neighborhood “has never been part of that story, but I understand the concerns of the neighborhood.”

History has taught us that expropriation is a bad way to do economic development. Hopefully, the district’s willingness to slow things down — and cede some of its state-granted powers — will produce an AEC that serves as a model for future economic development initiatives.


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