Like the Broad bus route, the Galvez bus route is pretty long and goes from the edge of Uptown to the 9th Ward, passing through the 6th, 7th and 8th Wards. Another commonality is that when riding along these routes, you'll see that we are still nowhere near being finished with rebuilding after almost seven years. Is it government corruption? Laziness? Lack of resources? Gentrification? Many 6th Ward residents and shopkeepers believe it's a combination of them all, especially one woman I met who had a lot to say...
Honestly, when I first encountered Mary Moore yelling outside of a corner store, I thought she was a crackhead. After all, I've lived in the 'hood all my life, I know a crackhead when I see one. But I found out she's just a long-time resident of the Iberville project who's fed up with government corruption and what she and other 6th warders perceive as gentrification: "They are trying to kick the minorities out! They are trying to kick the black people out!" she yelled as I was taking pictures of the long-defunct Carver Theater. "Why is it taking so long for the rest of the project to come up? I know FEMA paid 'em." She and the store's owner talked about how some productions filming in New Orleans try to capitalize on the blight, saying that Empire State starring Dwayne Johnson and Liam Hemsworth recently filmed near the Carver Theater.
Sounding more like a conspiracy theorist at points, Moore claimed former mayor Marc Morial received $4 million to rehab the Carver Theater and that the person who acquired the theater after received $9 million. I'm not sure if the Morial accusations are true, and since I've only a short window to post this, I can't do the research required to be absolutely certain. My preliminary research points to the accusations being false.
I did, however, discover this: The Carver Theater is "broom clean" and is slated to be a live entertainment venue opening...soon? Sounds promising, but I'm not getting my hopes up: The corner store owner said a man from the Carver Theater came over two weeks ago and said he was selling it. Also, the Facebook page is only updated with curated local news of black interest, nothing to do with the theater. And the director of the Carver Theater Foundation, Eric Cager's Twitter headline reads, "Event organizer, street anthropologist" and his feed is full of strange, somewhat incoherent tweets. But I'll just attribute that to him being significantly older than the average social media aficionado. Still, something seems a bit...off.
Morris Kahn, CEO of Axiom Global Properties—formerly Orpheum Property Inc.—is helping to secure tax credits for owner and former Carver Medical Center tenant, Dr. Eugene Oppman as he did previously with Donna's on Rampart and is currently doing for Andrew Reid at the Orpheum Theater. Here's Orpheum Property Inc.'s executive summary:
Orpheum Property Inc. (the Company) is a publicly traded entity specializing in the purchase, development, and management of commercial properties. The Company leverages property acquisitions through stock/equity sales, private investment and limited loans commitments.Seems like the 6th ward's fears are warranted. It could be that Kahn and property owners are waiting on funds, but gentrification and greed may be deciding factors in the lag of development. As I was leaving, Moore said, "We don't care about black, white or jew or any of that—we just want our neighborhood back."
Purchasing and developing property and developing property has always been a sound investment. While stocks have had large swings up and down, over the last five years commercial property prices have continued to increase. Added to the fact that we are now seeing interest rates at their lowest point in 48 years it would appear to be one of the few sure means to capitalize the use of investment dollars for gain.
The Company will leverage their experience in real estate, finance, and accounting to execute their business plan. We will benefit from a limited overhead and in its initial stages the company can run with minimal capital outflow. Concentration will be to purchase income-producing properties with good existing management and favorable occupancy rates.
The Company’s focus for development projects will be with commercial properties that qualify for subsidization through tax credits and other government incentives. Initially these efforts are focused on properties affected by the 2006 Hurricane Katrina, but will not be limited to that geographical area.
The objectives for Orpheum Property Inc. over the next five years are:
•Achieve $1Billion in Property Assets within 5 years.
•Limit loan commitments to 40% of asset value.
•To have a diverse portfolio of commercial properties including, but not limited to, apartment complexes, office buildings, warehouses, hotels and theater/entertainment venues
•Maintain investments throughout the Unites States and limited International locales.
•Develop an active market for its common stock.
•Provide timely and quality completion of its developed properties.
•Management of income-producing properties with a focus on customer service.
Our mission is to purchase and develop quality commercial properties for both income producing opportunities and for resale, thereby providing investment growth for our shareholders and investors.
Orpheum Property Inc. will institute the following key procedures to reach its goals:
•Focusing on overlooked, undervalued, distressed commercial properties.
•Using Stock for as much of the purchases as possible.
•Track the progress of each construction project to insure the scope cost and schedule of each is maintained.
•Have a dedicated project manager for each project who can handle quality-control issues.
•Focus primarily on development projects that offer Tax Credit Subsidies.
•Retaining high-quality, on-site management.
(back on the bus)
Speaking of uprooting people from their homes...I was in the medical corridor and stopped for a bite at Mama's Cooking (2132 Tulane Ave., 525-5675). The menu was full of po-boys and other 'hood joint fare, but I spotted bun and banh mi—of course referenced under less intimidating English names, vermicelli and sandwich—and since the place was Vietnamese-owned, I figured it'd be my best bet. The grilled pork in the vermicelli was delicious and the accompanying veggies were fresh, but the noodles were hot and limp, unlike the cool al dente noodles I'm used to at Vietnamese restaurants and the lettuce was iceberg, not romaine. But it came with a Vietnamese egg roll, so that balanced it out a little. Since gumbo's my favorite food and I hear good things about 'hood gumbo, I tried that too. It was okay, but too goopy for me—almost gelatinous. There were a lot of flies and a pretty huge cobweb, even though the restaurant's only been open six months. The bathrooms were clean, though. I'd go back, since I do like the fact that they are trying to slowly integrate Vietnamese cuisine into a neighborhood that's not familiar with it and since I think the pork banh mi is probably great.
Mid-City PoBoys (201 N. Galvez St., 266-2338; www.mcpoboys.com) opened three weeks ago, but they're cash only and I only carry enough cash for a bus pass. Next time.
(back on the bus)
The Daq Shaq (6601 W. Judge Perez Drive, Arabi, 277-4242), open since February, is the best daiquiri shop I've been to in a long time. More than half the flavors have Everclear and the bar was fully stocked with novelty vodkas, including Three Olives' Loopy which tastes just like Froot Loops cereal. The bartender Lori gave me a list of some popular flavor combos:
Shaq Attack + The 108 + Jungle Juice = House Special
The 108 + Pina Colada = Push Up
Fudgesicle + Banana + Strawberry = Banana Split
There's also a DJ sometimes, pool, a jukebox and bar food.
I hope you enjoyed our bus adventure! Let's do it again next Tuesday! Here are some outtakes from this bus adventure.