365 NOLA Adventures

A Debate Over Housing and the Future of the Bywater

A big part of my life is pitching stories to magazines, newspapers and online publications.  Here’s one I sent out today about a piece I really want to write.  I’m hoping I found a home for it, but if you think of a spot that might be interested in having me write a story on the topic (or any topic — who’s kidding who, here?), please let me know!

Also, if you have an opinion about the debate in question, let me know!  I’m always trying to incorporate as many voices as I can into a story.

Here’s the relevant portion of the pitch I sent:

The story I’m proposing involves a current debate going on in the Bywater about its future.  One side fights to preserve their vision for the neighborhood — one of artists and musicians existing among a lively mix of shotgun singles and doubles.  Others stand to benefit from the development into higher density living.  Still others urge the city to find ways to bring back former long-term residents displaced by years of gentrification.  And some attempt to find a balance between the voices.

We’ve seen the debate play out as larger-scale apartments, condos and lofts have popped up around the neighborhood, and we saw it most recently in the fight over the hostel to be constructed on the corner of Mazant and Chartres.

Now it’s about to boil over again as HANO attempts to move forward on a 150-unit, mixed income project (60% affordable housing and 40% market rate) just across the street from that hostel.

I went to a community meeting convened by HANO last week, and it’s an understatement to say things got intense.  There was screaming and finger pointing, but what struck me most was how all sides looked to a different aspect of the Bywater’s past to make the case for their vision for the neighborhood’s future.

Because there’s been a defacto park neighbors adore on the site for a few years, does that mean it should always be a park?  Because there was affordable housing on the site for several recent decades, does that mean it should always be affordable housing?  Does the Bywater’s high proportion of one- and two-unit dwellings support the case that that’s all there should be, or does a history of industrial activities on Chartres Street — and a former centuries-old plantation/orphanage I’ve written about — create precedence for a larger structure on this historic site?

If we don’t want to reach a definitive conclusion in the piece, that’s okay with me.  I think the most interesting aspect of the story is how reasonable residents are looking at the same intertwining challenges and coming up with their own disparate conclusions — ones that may impact the neighborhood for decades.

I’ve lived in the neighborhood for nearly a decade.  I have contact information for residents on several sides of the debate, as well as contact info for a manager at HANO, the developer, the architect, neighborhood business owners, and local nonprofits working in housing and urban development.

The story can focus on this particular site, but I think it would be most interesting to frame it with the history of some of the many past Bywater debates that have touched on similar themes and points of contention.

As you can probably tell, I’d love to write this story.  I appreciate your time and consideration, and please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Thanks again,
Matt

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