As a resident of Baton Rouge, we have noticed that LSU has its’ own ecosystem. In essence, LSU has its own perfect community and the students and staff are the residents. At LSU all residents have easily accessible health facilities, shopping, restaurants, mixed-income living, work opportunities, and grocery stores. Additionally, the residents are able to move freely between spaces through various forms of transportation – walking, biking, transit, or car. In our line of work this is called “sustainability planning” where residents can meet all their needs within a 20 – minute distance. GEAUX TIGERS! How is it possible for a university to have a concept that enhances the quality of life for all residents and local surrounding communities are having a difficult time? Two words – Urban Density.
Suppose a large number of LSU’s residents (students who live on campus) decided to move off campus into various surrounding areas; creating new suburban spaces such as Golden Oaks. The students are looking for more space, more amenities, and independence. Also, the amazing creation of cars makes life even easier to commute.
Opportunity Cost vs Trade-Off
Golden Oaks is transforming into an amazing new development that is accommodating to their new tenants. There will be newly built homes, a string of popular chain stores, recreational space and more employment and educational opportunities. This is awesome and it sounds great for the growth of Baton Rouge as a whole! On the other hand, LSU is struggling. Their transportation and energy cost is increasing, their local environmental resources are draining, and the community’s character is diminishing. Sadly, they are barely meeting core requirements for market feasibility. Not to mention the tax revenue increased. Sounds dramatic, but true.
…but how? Let’s break this down.
Transportation and Energy Cost
As the number of commuting students increase, so does the traffic. "Higher density communities generate less traffic than low-density communities per unit; it makes walking and public transit more feasible and creates opportunities for shared parking (Haughey, Richard; 2005)."A once economical feasible transportation system has to restructure their infrastructure due to the increase of cars, lack of parking, and highly congested roads. Unfortunately, they are now working from a smaller budget as a result of less students living on campus. Therefore a delay in development will occur. The once sustainable community is now grappling to shift with the rapid growth surrounding them.
With new homes being built more land and space is needed per person, but who pays for that? Most of the time it is the longtime resident (students who stayed on campus). “Typically, in the U.S., current residents of a city subsidize new construction and infrastructure before new residents move in. A portion of the tax revenue normally spent on existing neighborhoods is allocated to the new development. As a result, fewer resources are available to maintain services (such as fire and police protection, public education, and the repair of roads and utilities) in older neighborhoods, and many cities often raise taxes to compensate (Rafferty, 2019).” This explains how Golden Oaks gained their newly built homes, chains stores, and recreational spaces. Development of land has shifted from LSU (the respective center) to support the unplanned move to Golden Oaks (the suburban area). Sadly, this is the main symptom of an urban sprawl.
Quality of Life
New businesses and chain stores sound exciting for both parties and the makings of a thriving, diverse community, but at what cost? Where are they building? The land that was once LSU's community park, open community space, or greenery is now under redevelopment to be the next shopping center. Also, the local coffee shop might close because of the lack of clientele and large competition. People vote with their feet. If more students begin to view suburban living as better than campus living, less money will funnel to the school, which means less funds for better amenities and education. If LSU’s education and amenities continue to diminish, it will be difficult to recruit and retain students. Inevitably, LSU will be less economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable to remain functional. Blindly, to many, LSU will continue to resemble a thriving community. Be that as it may, a hoarder doesn’t look like one in public and LSU will not look like a deprived campus on the surface.
Unfortunately, this is a real scenario among the Baton Rouge community. For years families have moved out of neighborhoods such as Gus Young, Scotlandville, Zion City and Mid City to more suburban areas by reasons of education, racial segregation, housing, and more. Consequently, the migration of families are having an adverse effect on the core community, notably, business closures, access to health care, healthy food options, and polluted air. The impact that LSU experienced from the creation of Golden Oaks is an everyday struggle for low-income to moderate income neighborhoods that are majority African American and People of Color.
The truth is...
Living in the city makes more sense for people and cities as a whole. Cities have always been at the center of economic growth, technological advances, and the promise of jobs. Within a concentrated space , the increase in urban density allows the government to provide more public services such as water, electricity, and transportation to a larger number of people. This is because the local government is no longer dividing their services between multiple communities, which in turn places less of a burden on them. Plus, with an increase in urban density the property taxes decreases. Allowing residents to pay lower rates and have funds reinvested back into their community and local schools. Not to mention, the reduction of distance between homes, shops, and offices reduces the cost of public infrastructure, therefore, making it more appealing to repair road damages. Equally in higher density communities it attracts new employers and increase property values, based simply from the lifestyle benefits. If executed well the community can drive up their market value through having a strong sense of community, several amenities within the neighborhood, and diversity (Metrotex).
Reinvestment, also known as smart growth, is a planned way to restore sustainability within a neighborhood. Neighborhoods will evolve into a self-supportive, multi-functional space that focuses on developing in close proximity where residents can easily access and become less car dependent. Illustrated through the recent impact Government St has on the Mid City community. Government St has recently development into a booming space that has an influx of local businesses, implementation of bike lanes, and an endless amount of shopping stores and restaurants. Also, there is an increase in available housing, sense of place, and high quality of life due to the implementation of smart growth tactics within the community.
In essence, we cannot shut down Golden Oaks for LSU to thrive again, but we can shift our efforts back towards LSU so that the community as a whole is functioning as an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable society for everyone. It is our goal to make sure every neighborhood within the Mid City area are all self-sustaining communities regardless of surrounding suburban neighborhoods.
If you are interested in supporting our efforts to bring smart growth projects to your neighborhood reach out to Symphony Malveaux our Community Relations Coordinator.
The mission of Mid City Redevelopment Alliance is to develop and promote the growth and renewal of Mid City Baton Rouge by attracting new and retaining current residents and businesses.