What follows is a photographic tour of the Bywater, St. Claude and Lower 9th Ward sections of New Orleans, now five years after the storm. Since the foundation of the city, New Orleans has always attracted the outsider’s judgmental gaze, usually directed towards a perceived laxity in morality. The laxity in this case seems to be municipal in nature–while ample demolitions have occurred, there is no presence of a revitalization scheme. Instead the city seems to nibble at the fringes providing minor streetscape improvements, token sewer inlets and the contractor’s dream, new sidewalks. All of this seems to occur without the guidance of a development plan. People I’ve talked to here roll their eyes at the outgoing Nagin administration but the problems are deeper. Unless someone takes a closer look at how to make these depopulated regions self-sustaining in both a residential and commercial sense, and to knit them back to the French Quarter-Marigny-CBD tourism nexus, no one will return nor will anyone invest. New Orleans has been redeveloping 4 of its 1940s-era public housing sites in accordance with essential New Urbanist tenets: creating a community of diverse incomes using context sensitive architecture and neighborhood amenities.
Because of the abundance of urban land, there are profound opportunities to rethink the grid, to concentrate new growth along new axes, to mix residential units with commercial properties and–perhaps most importantly–to create new bus or light rail connections to connect the 9th Ward. All of this is needed to graft the 9th Ward back into a city diced and quartered by race, class, infrastructural barriers, damage levels, and lack of coordinated reinvestment. [Look for a short post on these projects soon]
Elsewhere, further west closer to the whiter and younger Marigny, new opportunities are forming for a different set. Contractors are going back to work, gutting industrial buildings, creating new residences like the ‘Sugar Mill’.
For full set of New Orleans photos with notes, click here.