Report on diversifying the local economy is based on recommendations from land use experts
WASHINGTON (February 13, 2019) – The communities of Morgan City and Berwick have the potential to emerge from years of oil industry decline and become proactive in building success if they cooperate with each other and the surrounding parishes rather than compete with each other, according to the Urban Land Institute (ULI). Sponsored by St. Mary’s Excel, ULI’s recommendations are included in a report released this week following a visit to Morgan City and Berwick last year by a group of land use and urban development experts convened by the Institute to advise the cities on how best to grow and expand their local economies.
ULI is a global, multidisciplinary real estate organization whose work is driven by more than 42,000 members dedicated to responsible land use and building thriving communities. The panel was convened through ULI’s Advisory Services Program, which for more than 70 years has gathered groups of ULI members who are experts in the fields of real estate development and land use to advise communities facing complex urban development challenges.
The panel found many positive aspects of the cities that they can build upon to become successful, including that it already has a foundation of lively events and culture that can be used to expand tourism in the area, the potential of the industrial sector to become a cargo hub for the region, and the fact the region is cooperatively working together to build resilience community assets to prepare for climate change related problems that are likely to occur in the future.
The panel issued detailed recommendations that the cities regarding economic land use and revitalization ideas:
- Rebrand the Tri-City area to differentiate it from the rest of St. Mary Parish and the Gulf Coast,
- Differentiate downtown Morgan City and Berwick through specialization to compliment each other, rather than compete with each other: Morgan City should specialize in retail and commercial uses, and Berwick should specialize in recreational uses and grow the shrimp co-op,
- Create a strategy to maintain the proper depth of the Atchafalaya River, in order to increase industrial opportunities,
- Understand the social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities and make building for resilience a priority,
- Collaborate and consolidate tax entities to produce efficiencies, and
- Expand the range of housing options to support a greater variety of economic sectors and help reuse underused properties.
The panel also looked in-depth at resilience measures needed to ensure that Morgan City and Berwick mitigate the vulnerabilities from sea-level change and riverine flooding. The report maps out possible scenarios 10, 20 and 30 years from now, with an emphasis on the need to commit to long term planning and adaptation strategies. Some of the strategies that the report recommends includes achieving and maintaining FEMA levee certification without shortcuts, preserving existing natural areas as a buffer against wave energy or dampening wind effects, and restoring the ecosystem to create a consistent and reliable case for the beneficial reuse of dredged material, rather than the current preference for in-water disposal.
“The panel had a very challenging assignment,” said Alrich Lynch, the panel chair. “The report needed to be broad enough to address the various issues that have and are continuing to contribute to some of the most recent declines in population, employment, economic development, resilience, and other factors, but at the same time, we needed to go deep enough in the various areas to provide a useful roadmap for the future. We believe we were able to frame the issues appropriately and set the stage for quality discussions that will lead to sustainable changes in approaches by civic, community, business and philanthropic groups.”
While ULI’s recommendations focus on Morgan City and Berwick, they can be adapted to other national cities hit hard by the decline of a primary industry. Over the past several years, ULI advisory panels have assisted communities with reimagining their economic potential, such as Erie, Pennsylvania, Hillsborough County, Florida, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands and Bloomington, Indiana.
“The strength of ULI’s Advisory Services Program lies in ULI’s unique ability to draw upon the knowledge and expertise of its cross-disciplinary membership, which includes representatives from all aspects of the land use and real estate industry,” said ULI Global Chief Executive Officer W. Edward Walter. “The independent views of the panelists bring a fresh perspective to urban development and growth challenges such as those faced by Morgan City and Berwick. The program is all about offering creative, innovative approaches to community building.”
Lynch, the panel chairman, was joined by: Garrett Avery, Senior Designer, AECOM, New York, New York; John Goss, Asian Carp Project Staff, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Indianapolis, Indiana; Clifford Graves, Planning and Partnerships Consultant, City of Carson, Culver City, California; David Greensfelder, Managing Principal, Greensfelder Commercial Real Estate LLC, Albany, California; Brad Power, Director, Community Development Department, City of Englewood, Colorado, and Nitasha Rajora, General Manager of Developments and Investments, Atelier Capital Partners, Inc., Vancouver, Canada.
Past sponsors of ULI Advisory Services panels include federal, state, and local governments; regional councils of government; chambers of commerce; redevelopment agencies; private developers and property owners; community development organizations; lenders; groups focused on historic preservation; local nonprofits; environmental organizations and economic development authorities.