Jefferson Street Market’s closure doesn’t bode well for our historic downtown.
[Editor's note: Since the print version of this column went to press Tuesday afternoon, we learned that a real estate development company entered into a contract to purchase the Jefferson Street Market property from the Robisons. Based on this company's track record downtown, this is an encouraging development indeed. More to come later.]
Businesses go out of business all the time. It is as prosaic to the life cycle of commerce as a sale or a receipt. So it wasn’t a shock to the system when we learned last week that Jefferson Street Market will close by the end of the month. It was a punch in the solar plexus for many who support downtown Lafayette. But a shock it was not. Traffic wasn’t exactly robust in the quirky market-slash-art gallery. For the last several months, if not year, a good month at JSM was a break-even month.
For me, the closure last spring of City News Stand was as great a loss for downtown, in part because it was the last news stand in the city and also because a news stand — such a quaint and quintessential 20th century enterprise — fit the district’s historical and spiritual character.
Where Jefferson Street Market’s closure shifts from prosaic to poetic is in what it means symbolically for downtown Lafayette. The market opened in December 1996, the same time StreetScape promised to visibly alter not only downtown Lafayette’s main artery but our perception of the role a historic downtown can and should play in the life of a city; the same time that vision and determination — and public and private investment — were marshalled in equal measure to transform the area.
Downtown Lafayette is so close to realizing that vision, so close that the achievement gap seems painfully wide. There are some fine restaurants, galleries and public spaces. Jefferson Street has a bustle and buzz during weekdays it didn’t have 20 years ago. But when JSM closes, the area’s retail aspect will contract. As anyone who has been there knows, JSM is home to more than a dozen vendors who sell their products on consignment; its closure puts more than a few people out of business. Many of those vendors are making plans to move to downtown Breaux Bridge. Our loss is Pont Breaux’s gain.
Owners Rob and Catherine Robison could have soldiered on — friends, especially those who support the downtown district and long for it to achieve that critical mass wherein retail, commercial, cultural and residential realize a self-sustaining balance — pressed them to stay. The Robisons are people of means; they own the building outright. They could have stayed open and no doubt agonized over the decision.
A vacant Jefferson Street Market is a very visible capitulation to the truth that perception can have a profound affect on reality. The perception — fed mainly by periodic news reports of late-night crime, most of it garden-variety property crime, some of it alcohol-fueled stupidity — is that downtown Lafayette isn’t safe. I would wager that downtown is safer during business hours than a sprawling parking lot on the south side. But that’s not the perception.
Downtown’s proximity to some distressed neighborhoods, its few transients, who keep mainly to themselves, and its sometimes frustrating lack of convenient parking have abetted the area’s difficulty in establishing an enduring identity. More than a dozen years after StreetScape, which the Robisons hitched their wagon to, downtown Lafayette still feels like it’s in flux, like its future is tenuous.
But as Jefferson Street Market prepares for its final ArtWalk this month, a froufrou tea and pastry shop opened in Gordon Square down the street. The market’s closure is not the end of the world, but it is definitely a blow to downtown.
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Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
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The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
A divided 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette district judge’s ruling absolving the co-owner of a New Iberia accounting firm of liability in an embezzlement case.
Our View: It’s reasonable, temporary and invests in Lafayette’s future.
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By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
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The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
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State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
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After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.