Our View – Development toward dreams determined by detailed direction
There has been a lot of talk about 2012 being the year for downtown development in Houma. The one-time central area for commerce has some attractive offerings such as the marina and park, courthouse square, Waterlife Museum and bayou walk, select upscale restaurants and loft apartments, and restoration activity at a couple of long-time boarded up buildings.
There is also much that detracts from the pluses of and improvements made to that area. Closed and rundown structures, unappealing and uneven sidewalks, limited parking and a lack of attractions that generate interest among people that are not bar-hoppers are a few of the drawbacks.
Downtown development means more than occasional festivals and parades. To be viable, a downtown needs to be a place of destination on regular hours and days of the week.
Communities that have resurrected their downtowns have done so by making them places where people want to shop, live and raise families.
We believe the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government is right in its desire to develop downtown. It needs to begin with securing quality housing that is affordable for those with annual household incomes of $50,000 as well as exclusive $100,000 residents – although their presence and cash is certainly welcome.
Downtown needs retail offerings that the average person would use on any given day. A grocery store, clothiers, recreation and businesses related to the working class.
Access to the core area and adequate public parking is critical in getting people to return downtown once the curiosity has subsided.
Most of all, downtowns that are more than someplace people go to work or socialize after 5 p.m., have a main attraction, a theme or identity that people intentionally seek, discover and easily recognize.
Sustainable downtowns are lasting because a variety of people want to be there. Merchants, shoppers, tourists and residents all need a reason to be there. They want to conduct business as well as reside in walking distance to everything they need for daily living.
Driving along Main Street or Park Avenue offers multiple impressions of Houma and Terrebonne Parish as a whole. Some are good impressions. Most are not. We courage residents and the leaders they have chosen to change that condition for the better, each one doing their part, and make dreams of this being the year for downtown a reality.