Donovan Rypkema: All I can say is WOW

Donovan Rypkema, PlacEconomics

Donovan Rypkema, PlaceEconomics

I had the privilege to attend the opening session of the Louisiana Trust’s 30th Annual Preservation Conference which featured keynote speaker Donovan Rypkema.  Not only was he fantastic…he was AWEsome!!!  When took to the podium he appeared like your typical absent-minded professor, way smarter than you, economist.  Everything he said was heartfelt with a hint of humor.  His remarks were concise and easy to follow and understand.  I was proud when he said that the City of Alexandria is employing its own stimulus plan which will be more effective and self sustaining in the long run without expecting our great grandchildren to pay the debt 100 years from now (which cannot be said about the Obama stimulus plan).  I have always been a supporter of SPARC, but it is just nice when you have a big wig from D.C. come down and pat you on the back.  (Thumbs up Mayor and staff).

For a complete bio and CV on Mr. Rypkema, please click here.  Otherwise, below is the Town Talk article on the opening session.

Economist says SPARC is city’s stimulus plan
By RT Morgan • • April 30, 2009
Preservation and reuse of the city of Alexandria’s older buildings could provide relief during an economic downturn, according to an expert on the economic benefits of historic preservation.

Donovan Rypkema categorized a city’s move toward historic preservation as a key to establishing sustainable economic development.

Rypkema, an internationally known economics professional, was in Alexandria on Wednesday as the keynote speaker for the 30th annual Louisiana Preservation Conference.

Based in Washington, D.C., Rypkema is the principal economist for PlaceEconomics, a real estate and economic development consulting firm. He is also the author of several books and articles concerning economic development, downtown redevelopment and historic preservation.

His comments on preserving and repairing existing assets coincide with a plan that has already been implemented by the city of Alexandria’s administration, the $96 million SPARC plan — Special Planned Activity Redevelopment Corridors.

Rypkema referred to the far-reaching development project as Alexandria’s stimulus plan. He was briefed on SPARC by members of the city administration.

Kay Michiels, the city’s chief operating officer/interim planning director, said she “drug (Rypkema) all over town” and picked his brain on development.

For the most part, Rypkema believes the city of Alexandria is headed in the right direction. He said SPARC meets a few specific goals, including long-term public gain and the focus on areas that warrant re-investment.

By operation, SPARC breaks the city into three Cultural Restoration Areas, primarily parts of Alexandria that have been economically left behind.

The strategy is right, Rypkema said of the city’s push to re-engage forgotten infrastructure, such as buildings, sidewalks and roads. He likened the current limited use of downtown’s sidewalks and roads to “piddling away tax dollars.” This is a result of growth that’s been left unchecked and uncontrolled.

10 Most Endangered Tour: Hotel Bentley


As part of the 30th Annual Preservation Conference, the Historical Association of Central Louisiana organized a Louisiana Trust 10 Most Endangered List Tour yesterday.  Even though I had a part in organizing the tour, I had yet to see the inside of half of the buildings on the tour.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing, for the first time, the lobby of the now closed Hotel Bentley.  I know a lot about the Bentley, but I had not yet had the opportunity to see the inside before its doors closed in 2005.  For a complete history on the Bentley, please click here.  Everything said about the Bentley is true.  It is oppulent, beautiful, a classic example of early 20th century architecture and definitely worth saving.  Upon entering the lobby, straight ahead is a beautiful double staircase which meets at a landing and then grandly sweeps down to the floor.


Grand Staircase, Hotel Bentley, Alexandria, La

Grand Staircase, Hotel Bentley, Alexandria, La

A few of the persons joining us for the tour reminisced about being present at family weddings, proms and other events held here in the “good ole days”.  Their descriptions of the events transported me back and I could almost hear feet shuffling in time with music from the band, or the crisp whoosh of a wedding dress as a beautiful bride gracefully descended the stairs.  How exciting it must have been!


Original frieze pattern in dome

Original frieze pattern in dome

Gazing up at the inside of the dome, you will see a painted mural.  This is not original to the structure.  Originally a frieze type pattern decorated the inside of the dome and in the 1930’s-40’s, it was “modernized” by painting white over it with a black edge.  After renovating the Bentley in the 1980’s, the Tudor Construction company hired an artisan to paint this mural. (This information comes from the book “An Illustrated History: Rapides Parish” published by local author Sue Eakin).

Lobby Ceiling: Hotel Bentley

Lobby Ceiling: Hotel Bentley

 Alas, not all of the Bentley is a beautiful sight.  Signs of peeling paint, wear and tear and rot are already being seen due to the hotel being defunct for four years.  Below is just a small glimpse of the wood damage outside the hotel. 


However, now that I am Central Louisianan….I will cling to the faith that other Central Louisianans have that this once glorious building will be returned to commerce and that it will lift its head proudly in our downtown once again. 

The other buildings we toured were Mt. Olivet chapel, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Conerly House, the Thompson-Hargis mansion and the Cotton Bros. Bakery Building.  Bennettville Plantation house and store were listed on the Louisiana Trust’s 10 Most Endangered list, however it was not open for tour.  The Town Talk did a wonderful story on the tour and you can view that by clicking here. Don’t forget to look at the photo gallery to see more pictures of the tour.  Thank you RT Morgan for a wonderful story.

I would also like to thank TW Thompson for the wondeful picture of my daughter and I walking in the Hotel Bentley lobby.  I took a walk with Vivian because she was restless and also because I thought she was about to give the caretaker of the Bentley a heart attack.  The lady was very nervous and did not want Vivian injuring herself…which I completely understand.  So, when Vivian and I took a walk down the beautiful entryway, in between the columns, Mr. Thompson snapped a picture of us walking hand in hand and it is just beautiful!!!!  When he sends me the digital print, I will post it.   Thanks again, sir.

The Hotel Bentley 1907-08

The Hotel Bentley 1907-08


Sweet Sounds of Progress

Before floating off on cloud nine for the night, I decided to check the TT for any newsworthy items.  COA power plant up and running again….good, good.  Hopefully that does not mean bigger utility bills.  Obama and Jindal…no one likes what they are saying and doing this week….not surprising….then I ran across this:

Recently there was another crime sweep in Alexandria accompanied by a military helicopter. It flew over my house for two days.  Military activity on our streets is forbidden by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which says that it is unlawful to “employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws …” We do not need to become accustomed to troops on the streets. This is not normal and sets a dangerous precedence.

I feel these operations are to acclimate us to a police state. AN applicable saying comes to mind, “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants: it is the creed of slaves.”

Our problem is not with our neighbors’ vices but with tyranny in the form of bankers and politicians. I find it sick that ordinary citizens are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for non-victim crimes, but bankers, who have stolen trillions of dollars, go unopposed by the law.

Thomas Jefferson said, “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

 C. Wilson

Is she for real? Or is that, fo’ real?  I would like to know where she lives and whether or not she is on drugs!  Are we talking about drugs and a crime sweep?  Or are we talking about banking?  I am confused.

The two days the helicopter flew over my house I cheered!  I am glad that the city is taking the drug problem seriously and conducting crime sweeps.  We need more of them!  I guess I am whacky but my favorite sounds are: The crime sweep helicopter flying overhead at all hours of the evening.  The “whirr-whirr” of the street cleaner in the morning (and I mean early in the morning).  The “Crchank….rrrrrrrrrrrr” of the machine picking up limbs I piled up on the curb.  The “whop, whop, whop” of the dumpster being dumped at 5:00 a.m. every Friday.  To me, these are sounds of progress.  I am thankful for the services the city provides and am thankful that these services are carried out.  Bankers stealing trillions of dollars?  Are you really bothered by that Ms. Wilson?  The City of Alexandria is not responsible for crooked out of state bankers but they are responsible for taking care of business on the home front.  Yes, it is sad that these astronomical crimes were committed elsewhere and a lot of people suffered from it but that should not deter the COA from cleaning up the streets.  It is interesting that in one sentence Ms. Wilson is arguing that using military power is against the law and in another sentence she is belittling non-victim crimes (which are against the law).  Also, the egregious claim that bankers who have broken the law are not being prosecuted…can that claim be substantiated please?  The “Posse Comitatus Act of 1878” was quoted to justify the claim that using military force is improper.  This seems to be a lopsided letter with a lopsided complaint.


Children polish their table manners

If you missed the previous post, Vivian’s school had their 7th Annual Tea Party.  The Town Talk published the article today.  I was even quoted…and they got it right!  Imagine that!

Reposted from the Town Talk’s website:

While fast food is all too common for many working families, some local schools are taking the time to teach children that table manners are more than an old tradition.

“We live in such a fast-paced world, but for us” it’s important to be able to teach children to sit down at a table and learn “about grace, courtesy and manners,” Rosenthal Montessori Elementary Principal Deborah Whatley said as she walked to the school gym, where the school’s annual tea party was about to begin.

The party, which featured Rapides Parish School District Superintendent Gary Jones reading for the children, celebrated the culmination of the kindergartners’ and pre-kindergarten pupils’ etiquette skills learned throughout the year.

Dressed for the occasion, some of the pupils, including Cory Gallow, Reese Weeks and Ashantianna Sanders, wore their best outfits to the event.

Some boys sported executive suits, and girls wore colorful dresses and hats, while parents snapped photos and videos to capture the moment.

“Put your hands in your lap first,” said Ashantianna before she picked up her tiny tea cup delicately and sipped some of her tea.

Throughout the year during snack time, the pupils were taught how to serve someone and how to be served while remembering grace, courtesy and engaging in proper dialogue, Whatley said.

Other local schools hosting tea parties last week included Alma Redwine Elementary and Ball Elementary schools.

“Would you like some more tea?” asked a teacher at one of the properly decorated tables where four children mingled.

“Yes, ma’am,” Reese said with a smile, adding that he also was celebrating his sixth birthday.

Some of the parents attending the event, including Ann Stubbs, Sherrie Credeur and Andrea Warren, looked upon their children with smiles. They said they were pleased to see the school’s focus on life skills.

“That’s what I love about the Montessori system,” said Warren. “They teach manners, politeness and socialization skills. That’s very important,”

She said that her daughter, Vivian Warren, puts her skills to the test everywhere she eats.

Stubbs said it’s rewarding to see her son, Ryan Stubbs, learning about etiquette. It also reinforces what she has tried to teach her children about enjoying family dinners.

“Even if it’s six o’clock, or sometimes it’s eight o’clock, in our home at least one parent eats with the children. We always try to eat together. That’s when you find out what happened in their day,”  Stubbs said.

Oberia Price: Preservation Queen

Oberia Price at the recent Peggy Bolton Lecture Series

Oberia Price at the recent Peggy Bolton Lecture Series

A letter from the President of the Historical Association of Central Louisiana:

Dear HACL Member:
It is with heavy heart that I inform you that our past HACL President and longstanding board member has passed away at 4 a.m. today.
Oberia, as you all know, was a workhorse in preservation and for years, she undertook projects such as the Military Museum, Fort Randolph, the Peggy Bolton Lecture Series and many others.  Her attention to detail and her drive for perfection marked everything that she touched. 
We will miss her greatly.   A person of that caliber cannot be replaced.  Please watch your paper for the arrangements.  HACL will be responding appropriately in this great loss.  Remember the family in your prayers.
Kindest Regards.
Charles K. Charrier
President, HACL