Tag Archives: gentrification

Packers look to expand plans for entertainment, retail district around Lambeau

Early interest in the Green Bay Packers’ proposal for an entertainment, retail and residential district around Lambeau Field has the franchise already thinking of expanding its plans.

The Packers recently announced plans to develop the Titletown District on 34 acres around the stadium, including 30-50 townhouses overlooking a public plaza.

Strong interest in the development could mean expanding it to as many as 70 townhouses, said Packers vice president and general counsel Ed Policy. 

The Packers’ plan includes Lodge Kohler, a four-star hotel and spa, Hinterland Brewery and a Bellin Health sports medicine clinic west of Lambeau Field. Policy said there has also been a lot of interest in 180,000 square feet of commercial space on the north side of the district.

“We have talked to a lot of prospective tenants. The reaction … has been tremendous,” Policy said.

Initial investment in the project, including land acquisition and infrastructure improvements by the Packers, is estimated at $120 million to $130 million.

Packers CEO Mark Murphy wants a specialty grocery store within walking distance of the townhouses, Press-Gazette Media reported. Policy said it’s one of a number of concepts being discussed, and that it would not be a standard 70,000-square-foot grocery store. 

The Packers filed project documents with the Village of Ashwaubenon this week. After the village approves its plans, which could be about 90 days, site preparation can begin. The three anchor developments and the public plaza could be ready by the beginning of the 2017 NFL season. 

10 years after Katrina, the new New Orleans has left many old residents behind

Talking about New Orleans a decade after Hurricane Katrina, people here often reach for the biblical, describing an economic and cultural resurrection.

Helped by billions in recovery money, buoyed by volunteers and driven by the grit of its own citizens, the city is enjoying a resurgence. Reforms from schools to policing to community engagement and water management are in progress, buttressing people against the next monster storm.

But in the same breath, people also point to the many left behind. This `New’ New Orleans is whiter and more expensive, and blacks still suffer society’s ills disproportionately, especially in the chronically neglected Lower 9th Ward, a bastion of black home ownership before the floodwalls failed.

“A lot of folks say things are so much better, the economy is so improved, and other people are going to say it is so much worse,” said Allison Plyer at The Data Center, a think tank in the city. “And both those realities are true.”

Katrina swamped 80 percent of New Orleans with polluted water up to 20 feet deep. More than 1,500 from Louisiana died, the National Hurricane Center reported a year later. Hospitals and police were overwhelmed. The economy shut down. Survivors felt abandoned. Many evacuees didn’t return.

It seemed like a death blow for a city already suffering from crime, racism, poverty, corruption and neglect. New Orleans is a national treasure, where African-American, French, Spanish and Caribbean traditions had mixed for nearly three centuries. Could the people who create its unique forms of music, food and fun survive such devastation? Could they thrive?

“We’re still standing,” said Jannis Moody, a young black woman enjoying a free concert featuring the Rebirth Brass Band. “What’s clear” is that the people of New Orleans “are a resilient people.”

Signs of renaissance abound:

The city has recovered nearly 80 percent of its pre-storm population. Most public schools are being run as private charters, and the graduation rate has jumped, although criticism abounds. The old Charity Hospital, a first and last resort for the uninsured, has been replaced by a gleaming new University Medical Center.

Louis Armstrong Airport, where thousands tried to flee in August 2005, now handles more passengers than before Katrina. There are more restaurants. New businesses open 64 percent faster than the national average. Sales revenue this year is up.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought a French Quarter mansion and built new housing, part of a wave of up to 40,000 new residents, Tulane professor Richard Campanella estimates. Countless “YURPS” (young urban renewal professionals) and millennials followed the recovery and insurance money to what seemed like a “kind of undiscovered bohemia,” he said.

At Launch Pad, a co-working space meant to foster community, co-founder Chris Schultz said the storm “catalyzed people who stuck around to really care about the city.”

“The city has changed and ultimately we needed to change,” said New Orleans native Brooke Boudreaux, operating manager at the iconic Circle Food grocery near Treme, a neighborhood that calls itself “the Birthplace of Jazz.”

Once catering almost exclusively to black customers, the flooded grocery finally reopened last year, responding to an influx of Hispanics and whites by adding tamales and organic produce to New Orleans staples like Camellia red beans.

The Industrial Canal cleaves the Lower 9th Ward apart from all this. Eighty-year-old Oralee Fields calls it “the wilderness” as she looks out from her porch in frustration at the vegetation overtaking her street. “I had nice neighbors. We all grew up together, children walking home together from school.”

Massive piles of garbage and homes ruined by toxic mold are gone. What remains in the Lower 9th is an emptiness. Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right” houses, community gardens and a new $20.5 million community center attest to hard-fought progress. But only one school has reopened, and few stores.

Generations of home ownership worked against the Lower 9th, because many lacked the flood insurance mortgage lenders require, said Sierra Club activist Darryl Malek-Wiley. Reconstruction money matched pre-Katrina market values that didn’t cover rebuilding. A protracted debate over whether to abandon the Lower 9th as livable space slowed recovery.

The city’s black population is down from two-thirds before Katrina to about 60 percent. Those who remain earn half the income of white households. Thirty-nine percent of children remain in poverty.

“When Katrina hit, you got to see the real New Orleans, people who were trapped at the Superdome and the Convention Center – 99 percent poor, black. We don’t have anyone who seems to know how to fix that problem,” said Wayne Baquet, who owns Lil Dizzy’s Cafe in Treme.

With cheap rentals largely destroyed, rents skyrocketed by 43 percent. Public housing projects were demolished and replaced with lower-density housing. Thousands of families remain on a waiting list for subsidized housing. Many workers face longer commutes.

“The quality of the housing is definitely not worth the price that they’re charging now,” said Adrian Brown, a chef in the French Quarter who moved outside the city center.

New Orleans capitalized on “the power and the spirit of the comeback,” said Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc., but most of the disaster relief and philanthropy has come and gone. He says the next ten years will likely be harder than the first.

At the Rebirth concert, an upbeat crowd enjoyed a lush summer evening, with kids playing and couples swaying as the Mississippi lapped at the levee.

“You’re not going to recover from the impact of Katrina and be the same,” concertgoer Torrie Jakes said. “Do I mourn the loss of that New Orleans? Yes, but do I like the new parts of New Orleans? Yes, I do.”

Suburban gay bars headed for extinction

David Ralston came out in the early 1990s the only way he knew how: He went to a gay bar.

Not just any gay bar, but one in the suburbs, far from his Northeast Philadelphia home and the eyes of anyone in his large Irish Catholic family.

“I would still feel funny going into gay bars in Philadelphia,” Ralston, now 46, recalled. “I would wonder who’s watching me going in and out? Who’s going to tell my mother?”

So he drove to Gatsby’s in Cherry Hill, just one of a wide variety of gay bars tucked discreetly in the suburbs at the time. There was the Lark in Bridgeport, for instance, and the CR Bar was in Upper Darby. New Hope had three.

No more.

Suburban gay bars have all but disappeared. New Hope supports only one gay bar now, the Raven.

The decline reflects major shifts in American attitudes – among both gay and straight people – and the emergence of online sites for dating and hooking up.

It also illuminates the obsolete business model of the traditional gay bar. Simply having a gay clientele is not enough and has not been for a long time.

“Those were our ghetto bars,” Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, said of some of the windowless places in the suburbs. “We were stuck there. Today we’re not stuck. Our dollars are welcomed everywhere.”

He added: “There was a time when a gay couple could only go to the gay bars in New Hope. Can you imagine today a couple not feeling comfortable going to almost any bar there?”

In 2007, Entrepreneur magazine listed gay bars – along with newspapers and record stores – among 10 businesses facing extinction in 10 years. “The very best of them will endure; the rest won’t,” the magazine wrote.

In 2011, Slate magazine noted a 12.5 percent decrease in the number of gay bars nationwide since 2005.

Brett Bumgarner, who is writing his dissertation on how gay men meet, said gay bars are perceived less as singles places now, their original purpose replaced by cellphone applications such as Grindr that signal users when another interested gay man is nearby.

“A lot of people I know have talked about feeling uncomfortable because someone 40 years their senior is aggressively flirting with them,” said Bumgarner, 28, who studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “I think that’s what has attracted people to non-gay bars now.”

Younger people in particular – both gay and straight – are more interested in mixed settings. Straight bars, for instance, are offering gay nights.

Suburban gay bars also have had to compete with Philadelphia, an increasingly safer and younger city with a thriving “Gayborhood” that allows folks to bar hop.

“It’s very difficult for the suburban bar to compete with the city,” said Malcolm Lazin, executive director of the Equality Forum. “When you go to a smaller bar (in the suburbs), it’s probably less interesting, less upscale, has fewer people and the same people.”

Bob Skiba, director of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) archive at the William Way Center in Philadelphia, said gay bars date to the 19th century in Philadelphia. They proliferated with speakeasies in the 1920s. Their numbers rose again after World War II when an entertainment district sprouted along 13th Street and Locust.

In the 1970s, ownership of these bars shifted from underworld types, who often paid off police, to gay proprietors. More suburban bars opened up around this time, Skiba said. They included Andy’s in Chester and the Lamplighter in Camden. January’s was on a farm near New Hope. Marcus Hook had three bars: Captain Jack’s, Paradise, and George’s.

The 1996 edition of Gayellow Pages advertised the Lark in Bridgeport and the CR Bar in Upper Darby. New Hope still had the Cartwheel, Prelude, and the Raven. Gatsby’s was still around. Trenton had Buddies, Casa Lito, and Club 21.

Ralston, who came to Gatsbys in the early 1990s, said he knew no one when he walked in.

“Everybody was very interesting looking,” he said. “There were drag queens. A lot of weird people. A lot of nice-looking people. It was fun.”

He added: “For me, the gay bar was the support system, which is sad to say. But it was.”

Some of the bars provided “a sense of family that comforted whatever stage of gay life you were going through,” said John Glenstrup, a former bartender at Upper Darby’s CR Bar, a windowless place on Market Street.

A lot of his regulars did not feel safe in Philadelphia in the 1980s. But many people have grown older or moved back to the city, he said.

The suburban bars started to die out in the 1990s. Most were gone, except for the Raven, by the mid 2000s, although not necessarily for business reasons. The Cartwheel in New Hope caught fire. The Lark, on Dekalb Street in Bridgeport, fell victim to a bridge expansion. But these businesses were not replaced.

Philadelphia’s gay bars, on the other hand, have maintained a steady presence since the 1990s. Gentrification had swept away places on either end of South Street and north of Market, where black gay bars once existed, said Skiba, the archivist. But the Gayborhood, along 13th Street, has thrived because of the community’s strong political and business associations, Skiba said.

Terrence Meck, who owned the Raven in the mid-2000s with his late partner, Rand Harlan Skolnick, said a strong market still exists for gay bars. But owners cannot assume they have a built-in clientele.

“Our most successful weeks at the Raven were when we offered something different for various crowds each night of the week,” Meck said. “Just having a hot bartender isn’t going to pay your bills and keep you thriving anymore.”

The Beagle Tavern opened in Norristown in 2010. It’s a neighborhood-type pub that sells crab cakes and Caprese salad. The front patio looks out onto East Main Street. The door displays a rainbow sticker the size of a playing card.

“It’s a gay bar,” said the owner, Billy Frank. “But I wanted to make it an alternative bar for all walks of life, like for the misfit toys of Christmas. It’s for whoever walks in.”

The Beagle has drag nights.

And it’s where Tamara Davis and Nicola Cucinotta came to celebrate last week after getting their marriage licenses from Montgomery County’s register of wills. But the bar has a mixed staff and clientele.

Michelle Dorsey, 38, said it’s a place where she can bring her girlfriend – and her girlfriend’s 68-year-old mother.

“I don’t have to go to a gay bar,” Dorsey said. “I can be affectionate with a woman on a SEPTA bus. I just want to go somewhere I want to be.”

Seattle woman marries warehouse

A Seattle woman has married a warehouse to protest demolition of older buildings in her community.

But by calling the union of woman and abandoned building a “gay wedding,” community activist Babylonia Aivaz became the target of some protesters.

Aivaz, according to ABC affiliate KOMO in Seattle, invited the public to her wedding on Jan. 29 as part of a demonstration against the demolition of a property to make way for a mixed-use apartment building.

She wrote on her Facebook page, “Yes, I’m in love with a 107 year old building! Yes, ITS A GAY MARRIAGE! How is that possible? Well there must obviously be a deeper story.”

Aivaz said if the courts can guarantee that corporations have rights like people, then property can have rights like people.

“I’m doing this to show the building how much I love it, how much I love community space and how much I love this neighborhood. And I want to stop it from gentrification,” she told KOMO.

About 50 people attended the ceremony, for which Aivaz wore a white wedding dress.

She pledged to “love and cherish and protect this warehouse” and witnesses sang “Lean on Me.”

Most celebrated the occasion, but some criticized the mock wedding as mocking same-sex marriage.

Washington is poised to become the seventh state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. Majorities in the House and Senate support marriage equality bills, as does the governor.