The one thing about a Web site, it always changes! Joomla! makes it easy to add Articles, content, images, videos, and more. Site administrators can edit and manage content 'in-context' by clicking the 'Edit' link. Webmasters can also edit content through a graphical Control Panel that gives you complete control over your site.

Home Our Blog Market Report Fat City

Fat City improvement fund has $736,709 in the bank

Drew Broach, | The Times-Picayune By Drew Broach, | The Times-Picayune
on November 14, 2012 at 5:19 PM, updated November 14, 2012 at 5:58 PM

If Fat City is to become a public laboratory for art, street fairs and creative use of its real estate, as suggested last week by a Manhattan urban planner, Jefferson Parish has the money to start. Since creating a special district to capture tax revenue from the Macy's department store that opened at Lakeside Shopping Center in 2008, Jefferson has banked $736,709, a figure growing by about $200,000 a year.

But Parish Council member Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who essentially controls the money, professes to have no firm plans for spending it. Further, she leans toward using the money for infrastructure -- a park, perhaps, or a parking lot - instead of the smaller, more ephemeral undertakings advanced Friday during a walking tour by the president of the Times Square Alliance.

Since the tax district was created, Lee-Sheng said, the hope has been to raise enough capital to borrow a bigger sum against the guaranteed revenue stream, perhaps partnering with another agency such as the Sheriff's Office, which has earmarked $4.5 million to replace its 1st District patrol station in Fat City, and sinking the proceeds into major public works. The initial notion was a parking lot.

"But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that's not enough of a game-changer," said Lee-Sheng, the driving public force behind the 2010 move to rezone Metairie's former nightlife hub and, eventually, give it a makeover.

Besides, she said, if Fat City comes alive like she hopes in the next 10 to 15 years, "people will walk blocks" to sample its attractions.

A park also is a possible investment, she said. It could thrive if Fat City attracts the young professionals whom Jefferson is targeting as residents, although which comes first - the park or its preferred users -- would seem to be a chicken-or-egg question.

Cynthia Lee-Sheng.jpg Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng

Lee-Sheng said she's not averse to smaller improvements, or transitory ones. An arched sculpture is in the works for 18th Street at Severn Avenue, the main vehicular entry point to Fat City. A festival might be organized. Some beautification is needed, especially greenery, which is scarce in the overwhelmingly concrete landscape.

"A tree really makes a difference," Lee-Sheng said.

The money from the special tax district may be spent in either Fat City or the Lakeside mall property next to it. Setting aside 25 percent of the total money for reserves means Jefferson Parish has $552,536 available to spend as of July, Planning Director Terri Wilkinson said.

While spending it now might be appear tempting, Parish Councilman Chris Roberts said the amount is deceiving.

"A half a million dollars in the scope of things is not a lot of money when you talk about street lights, street improvements," he said.

Plus, he said, parish officials might want to sit on the money until it's needed as a targeted economic development incentive, such as major infrastructure work to attractive a specific business.

When that will come about is not known.

"We all get discouraged because we want it to happen now," Lee-Sheng said. "But we all have to realize it's a long-term plan."

Indeed, Fat City Advisory Board chair Patricia LeBlanc said Wednesday, "We're not in the spending phase of our process yet."

But LeBlanc said there is growing urgency, two years after the rezoning, for something new and tangible in Fat City.

"The parish put a stake in the ground when they passed that ... ordinance," she said. "You want more than anything to create a sense of place."