by Jim Smilie
Describing Alexandria as an employment and retail powerhouse, representatives with Studio Main and Arnett Muldrow presented their suggested Revitalization Master Plan for the City of Alexandria during a public meeting at the Bolton Avenue Community Center in September.
“The consultants were clear – there is a tremendous opportunity for Alexandria. Their research shows that the City is a powerhouse for economic activity and critical services,” said Alexandria Mayor Jeffrey W. Hall. “Often times people talk about what is wrong with the city, and this presentation shows us what is right and how we can build on it. The initiatives and projects they outline are designed to accomplish a number of our priorities, including improving public safety and stimulating economic growth and investment.”
The master plan presented by the Design Team envisions growth in restaurant, retail, and residential projects downtown facilitated by creation of innovative trails, increased emphasis on a connection to the Red River and continued hosting of events and festivals in the area, which they called the “heartbeat of downtown.”
Trip Muldrow, with Arnett Muldrow, said, “As we look at the Alexandria retail market, you are a retail powerhouse. You are an employment powerhouse, and you are a retail powerhouse. This is a $1.2 Billion retail market. This city imports $519 million in sales every year. And that’s not just from Rapides Parish, that’s from the whole central Louisiana area.”
Muldrow noted retail sales per capita in Alexandria total $33,766. That number is significantly higher than the state average of $13,342 and it exceeds the national average of $13,443. “That just shows you what a retail powerhouse this community is,” Muldrow said.
Another positive factor Muldrow cited is the number of people who come to the city every day to work. “I almost never see this kind of influx. Every day, 26,000 people commute into the City of Alexandria to work. It’s pretty remarkable – essentially 95 percent of the population of Slidell commutes into Alexandria every day,” Muldrow said. “That presents huge opportunities for the things we are talking about, whether it’s housing or additional retail or additional dining.”
In describing retail growth opportunities, Muldrow looked at the amount of money local residents spend on purchases made outside of Rapides Parish. His research found $42 million goes out of market to food and beverage stores, $28 million for clothing purchases, $28 million on full service restaurant dining, $17 million on sporting goods and $11 million on specialty goods, such as gifts and antiques.
“With clothing, people probably make that once or twice a year trip to whatever big city to do your shopping for clothing, so there’s an opportunity for more of that here,” Muldrow said. “And we heard it over and over again in our input meetings, full-service sit-down dining. We’re not talking about white table cloths and candles, I’m just saying sit down and someone takes your order, you’re leaking sales.
Alexandria is doing just fine with fast food, but when we look at sit-down dining, the parish is underperforming, so that presents real opportunities for Alexandria as a retail powerhouse. If you’re doing so well overall, we ought to be able to close those gaps.”
Hall said he was pleased with the Design Team’s recommendations. “The initiatives and projects they outline are designed to accomplish a number of our priorities, including improving public safety and stimulating economic growth and investment,” Hall said. “It is important to understand this isn’t something the city can – or should – do on its own. The city’s role is to provide the necessary infrastructure and support to enable private investment groups to move forward with their own projects. I am excited about the possibilities. I see a bright future for our community as long as we all work together in Alexandria.”
The plan was created as part of a EPA Brownfield Assessment grant. The City of Alexandria received $300,000 from the EPA to conduct assessments of brownfield sites and to create a master plan to recommend potential re-use strategies.
Brownfield land is any previously developed land that is not currently in use that may be potentially contaminated. The term is also used to describe land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes with known or suspected pollution, including soil contamination due to hazardous waste such as former gas stations, dry cleaners and manufacturing sites. To move forward in getting these sites back in commerce they need to undergo environmental testing to check for contaminants. If contaminants are found, then they have to be removed.
Alexandria has a number of brownfield sites, and this project is focused on identifying those sites, performing the necessary environmental studies and clean-up, as needed, and then working to find new uses for the sites.
To see the FULL Revitalization Master Plan video presentation, go to the City of Alexandria website at