City of Alexandria – THINKAlex Resiliency Plan

Located in the geographic center of Louisiana, the City of Alexandria serves as a regional hub and major conduit to all other parts of the state, yet the city wants to maintain a hometown feel for its current and future residents. To ensure it successively meets these dual roles, the City of Alexandria divided the city into seven planning units using the city’s arterial infrastructure as a way to approach the planning process. This ensured that proposed land uses supported the creation of strong neighborhood communities whereby citizens live in proximity to amenities while also supporting regional networks marked by greater connectedness and accessibility.

The THINKAlex Resiliency Plan consists of long-term housing, transportation, and land use plans, as well as an updated Land Development Code, which collectively replace the city’s 20-year-old Comprehensive Master Plan. The Housing Plan addresses stagnant growth in recent years and promotes mixed use, relatively dense neighborhoods with a variety of housing options. The Land Use Plan further aims to concentrate development in areas not prone to flooding to minimize impacts from natural disasters. It proposes land use changes based on a low and moderate land area growth scenario that can handle different population capacities. The Transportation Plan calls for well-connected pedestrian and bicycle networks and improved efficiency of transportation networks. The new Land Development Code incorporates zoning and development regulations tailored to meet the city’s current needs, increase its resilience to hazards, and to support the three constituent plans.

Alexandria’s community-driven planning process is organized around six nexus domains that are important to a healthy and vibrant community system. These are focused on the physical, cultural, social, organizational, educational, and economic aspects of its community. This strategy further emphasizes collaboration by bringing together community citizens, businesses, organizations, and public officials to make decisions regarding future growth and development in support of community resilience. The planning process also began with a resilience analysis based on the three goals of safety, function, and value.

Resilience Planning in Action

The THINKAlex Resiliency Plan considers resilience in the context of the entire community, in addition to disaster preparedness. A resilience map of the city was created that identifies areas with high and low resilience assets for all seven planning units, derived from existing development patterns and the community resilience assets of safety, function, and value.

Environment

While Alexandria lies further inland and generally avoids direct hits from hurricanes, the city is susceptible to flooding from storms.  While the THINKAlex Resiliency Plan does not focus on flooding or disaster resilience, it recommends active and heavy engagement in these issues to ensure the long-term resilience of the city. The planning process was based largely on issues related to flooding and drainage in and around the city. It also supports concentrating new development in existing, more resilient areas to avoid development in higher risk areas. The plan further recommends exploration of floodplain management strategies to benefit the city’s existing drainage infrastructure that is based on both natural and man-made systems.

Proposed Actions:

  • Use conservation easements or outright purchases to strategically acquire flood-prone properties and help develop an interconnected greenway system throughout the city.
  • Concentrate future development in areas of the city that are not prone to flooding.
  • Encourage densification in appropriate areas and eliminate zoning regulations that impede development in these places.

Infrastructure

The Transportation Plan aims to maximize the operational efficiency of the city’s transportation facilities, as well as enhance the safety and beauty of its street, bicycle, and pedestrian networks. The plan further focuses on a multi-modal transportation network that is easy and safe to use. Key strategies include a pavement preservation program, intersection and traffic signal improvements, access management standards, and street connectivity improvements.

Proposed Actions:

  • Require all new roadway development or redevelopment, construction, or reconstruction to have sidewalks through subdivision regulations, and provide connections to existing or proposed sidewalks where possible.
  • Concentrate future development in areas of the city currently served by existing infrastructure.
  • Encourage higher density, mixed use developments and educational facilities within the downtown area to support public transportation and maximize effectiveness of existing downtown transportation infrastructure.
  • Require all new developments to mitigate adverse impacts on the transportation system and implement LA DOTD’s Access Management Policy where applicable.
  • Promote and facilitate private sector initiatives to help finance new construction, new transportation services, and improvements to existing facilities and services.
  • Promote regional and sub-regional transportation planning by cooperating with neighboring jurisdictions to develop a planned network of transit route, services, and roads.
  • Ensure that all transportation planning goals and improvements are in compliance with land use planning goals for the city, and vice versa.

Community

Alexandria is using multiple strategies to accommodate a variety of desired housing types and amenities to increase the attractiveness of its neighborhoods and housing stock. In particular, the Housing Plan establishes historic districts and design standards to preserve the unique, historic character and walkability of existing, older neighborhoods, something that Alexandrians strongly desire. The plan also calls for the use of incentives to increase the attractiveness of its housing stock to workers and potential citizens.

Proposed Actions:

  • Make broad improvements to quality-of-life amenities that continue the Special Planned Activity Redevelopment Corridors (SPARC) initiatives, including complete streets, parks, public open spaces, bicycle trails, and attractive public realms.
  • Improve street beautification and increase amenities for all transportation networks, including roadways, walking pathways, and bicycle pathways.
  • Update the current zoning code to establish historic districts and a review board to approve alterations to the outside of homes to ensure they adhere to siting and appearance as outlined in design standards.
  • Provide a monetary grant to employees who choose to rent or purchase a home within the city boundaries, with the city either matching the monetary grant or offering another financial benefit.
  • Encourage new developments to be built using minimum energy efficiency standards, as well as provide sustainable retrofitting opportunities for existing historic homes to lower utility costs, reduce a home’s carbon footprint, and improve the home’s marketability.
  • Retain and strengthen existing neighborhood centers of commerce that provide essential resources, services, and amenities to the city, and expand the number of these centers to every part of the city to provide basic needs for residents and businesses.

Next Steps

The THINKAlex Resiliency Plan includes additional recommendations with an eye for plan implementation moving forward. It recognizes the importance of continued citizen involvement to facilitate implementation, as well as the importance of hazard mitigation to maximize the city’s overall resilience.

Proposed Actions:

  • Pursue increased funding for non-motorized transportation elements, including trails, sidewalks, and bicycle lanes.
  • Empower citizens, organizations, and institutions, in partnership with the City government, to implement the plan.
  • Explore strategies for comprehensive floodplain management.
  • Support continued and enhanced citizen involvement through technology, such as the AlexConnects mobile app, and through a formal Citizen Participation Program to support existing and new community organizations.
  • Identify a floodplain manager and Flood Liaison Committee that will target appropriate floodplain activities in line with the No Adverse Impact philosophy and Community Rating System, as well as to identify and secure funding opportunities to implement these activities.