Thursday, September 09, 2010

Questioning the Central Business District (CBD)

Magazine Row again.  Riverside of the street.  Headed toward the CBD.
Upriver from Canal Street is New Orleans' Central Business District (CBD).  It's got a lot of tall buildings.  For the life of me, I can't figure out what business gets conducted in the CBD.  It may be another post-Katrian phenomenon but I think most of these buildings are abandoned in their upper floors.  I know the Entergy Building is home to the electric company.  One building is home to various state agencies.  Law offices are relatively thick in the CBD as, I assume, are high-end accounting firms.

Poydras Street was designated to be the street that was supposed to be a miracle mile of skyscrapers leading from the convention center to the Super Dome.  There are tall buildings there, but what they house and what purpose any workers there serve is an undiscovered mystery.  Most of the tall buildings around the CBD sport hotel chain logos around the roof line.  Tourism is a linchpin in the local economy, but what other business gets conducted?

I would expect to find bank headquarters and venture capitalists.  Maybe a publishing house or two.  Marketing firms?  Biotech startups?  There are a few banks in the CBD but they aren't exactly an overwhelming presence.  What is the business of New Orleans exactly that it needs a central district?

Today's illustration is more typical of the city's business culture.  It's a store that sells men's clothing on Magazine Street.  A local shop rather than a chain.  New Orleans' business tends to be small scale.  I like it.  It is spread all over the city from restaurants to snow ball stands to wig shops to corner meat markets.  New Orleanians seem to have an insatiable appetite for fresh meat.  There are local watering holes, clothing retailers, this and that.  Very little high finance or high stakes are evident, least of all in the CBD which doesn't resemble a financial district to me so much as a collection of mysterious buildings.  I know some shipping and oil outfits must have offices there but, like the wharves along the Mississippi and the rigs offshore, they are invisible.

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