The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation. Thich Nhat Hanh

The Train They Call “The City of New Orleans

Dear All,

This is a place to store information and images to chronicle and advance partnerships for the renaissance of New Orleans. It’s a wiki collaborative web platform you are invited to join in and develop. Here are some start-up visions to consider:

Lower Ninth Ward Garden Project Blog

…our Garden Project blog- full of photos of everyone and everything we’ve ever done (at least since the second week in February).

Keep an eye on it and the project. Things are moving in incredible ways…

Thanks to all of you. My finest wishes!

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Photos of Godsil’s October 2008 Visit to 9th Ward

Job Opening: Executive Director position at the New Orleans Food and Farm Network.


New Orleans Food and Farm Network, a food security nonprofit, is at the center of rebuilding food systems in New Orleans. Food & Farm Network believes everyone should have access to fresh, healthy, and sustainably produced food for the long-term health of our environment, economy and communities. To achieve our mission, we work with individuals, organizations, growers and communities supporting models of sustainable growing practices and working to ensure that all New Orleanians can access safe, nutritious and enjoyable food.

We have received funding from national sources such as Kellogg Foundation, USDA Community Food Security Program, Share Our Strength, Mazon, and Bon Appetit Management Company and currently have a $985,000 3-year grant from blue moon fund in Charlottesville, VA. Our innovative Good Food Neighborhood programs are achieving substantial success in creating neighborhood based food systems, and our urban farming advocacy and training is generating significant interest as the city rebuilds. In partnership with Carrollton-Hollygrove CDC and Tulane City Center, Food & Farm Network is developing a major community food center, Hollygrove Market & Farm, that will provide a non-profit local produce store and entrepreneurial training center for urban agriculture. We currently have approximately $1 million in pending grant proposals. Our 2008–2009 budget is $659,000.

Our staff of seven is assisted by college interns and contract trainers. This is a very entrepreneurial organization whose services are much in demand, and our staff works as a team to achieve solutions to emerging priorities. In addition to their areas of focus, our staff handles maintenance and other tasks that are typically handled by support departments in larger organizations.

We are looking for a talented leader to take this 6 year old organization to the next level of success.

We are seeking an experienced and energetic individual to:

  • Provide leadership toward the continuing development of a sustainable and strong food system for New Orleans.
  • Generate grant and earned income funding to support current and future activities.
  • Oversee all administrative aspects of our work, including financial and grants management and reporting, personnel/staff development, and strategic planning.
  • Ensure on-going community outreach and media coverage of Food & Farm activities and advocacy issues.
  • Serve as liaison to Board of Directors and, in cooperation with Board officers, cultivate strong understanding of and board support for NOFFN program and funding needs.
  • Create linkages with city agencies, community groups, and local and national non-profits to ensure a strong working network and source of best practices.

Skills should include:

  • 3–5 years of successful experience in directing an entrepreneurial non-profit or a major program within a small to medium-sized non-profit.
  • Demonstrated success in securing funding, managing a balanced budget, and compliance with grant and government reporting requirements.
  • Community development experience and familiarity with a variety of ethnicities and socio-economic levels.
  • Ability to lead a talented team in a positive and collaborative style.
  • Exceptional communication skills including writing/public relations/public speaking.
  • Ability to adjust to change and create positive solutions in response to emerging priorities.
  • Bachelor’s degree preferred.

Start Date:

  • Preferably mid-December, 2008. January acceptable.

Salary, Benefits: Competitive salary and company-reimbursed portion of health insurance; must locate to the New Orleans area.

Please send resume and cover letter as one file in Microsoft Word format immediately to: Kris Pottharst, Executive Director, [email protected] No phone calls, please. Position will remain open until filled.
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Can We Save New Orleans? - Tulane Environmental Law Journal, By Oliver Houck
Volume 19
Spring 2006
Issue 1

  1. Fantasy Island
  2. Reality Island

  3. Prologue: The Pelican Bill
  4. Flood Control: The Bridesmaid
  5. Working To Please Hill Commanders: The Congress Takes Over
  6. Oil and Gas: Death by a Thousand Blows
  7. The Development Game: Easy Money in the Hit Zone
  8. Global Warming: The Other Elephant
  9. Are We Serious Yet?

III. Resurrection

  1. From Barriers to Levees: Protection on Short Rations
  2. The Restoration Game: Ideas on Short Rations
  3. So What Do We Do?

    1. Two Visions
    2. Vision by Default
    3. Alternative Future 1
    4. Alternative Future 2
    5. Reconciliation
    6. Coast 2100
    7. Making Decisions
    8. Decisions from Another Quarter

  4. *Can We Save New Orleans?

Professor of Law, Tulane University. The research assistance of Todd Campbell, Rina Eisenberg, Machelle Lee, and Elizabeth Nagelin is acknowledged with gratitude, as are the comments and criticisms of my colleagues in other disciplines, several of whom are cited herein.

Starbucks’ 10,000 Volunteers to Rebuild New Orleans

10,000 Starbucks employees pour it on for volunteer projects in New Orleans
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By Coleman Warner at The Times-Picayune

As he left a relative’s house on Walmsley Avenue in the Broadmoor neighborhood, Jermaine Shiloh glanced toward a band of people in white t-shirts, hauling ladders as they scraped and painted a stout bungalow.

A block in the opposite direction, another group painted another old house.

“If it wasn’t for these people coming out here, some of these houses would be abandoned,” said Shiloh, 33, who lives nearby. “We need a good change. We need help.”

The New Orleanian had happened upon a small piece of a massive volunteer effort unleashed this week by managers, executives and other staffers of Starbucks Coffee Co. The Seattle company, even as it wrestles with a business downturn, is using its first-ever annual leadership meeting away from its home base to field 10,000 volunteers. They will restore parks, schools and houses this week in a city still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

The marshaling of that many volunteers — with more than 50,000 volunteer hours expected to pile up between Monday and Thursday — represents the biggest short-term corporate volunteer effort in New Orleans’ history, Starbucks representatives said, after consulting with local convention planners and nonprofit groups.

The company offered no research to back the claim, but it seemed reasonable to Kristin Gisleson Palmer, director of Rebuilding Together New Orleans, a home restoration program that is tapping the labor of 4,000 of the 10,000 Starbucks people. In its sheer scale, this week’s volunteer push is five times larger than of a home repair sweep staged in New Orleans’ Holy Cross neighborhood in conjunction with the NBA’s All-Star game in February, Palmer said.

“This is the largest single volunteer corporation effort I’ve ever seen, and I’ve worked with hundreds of corporations,” Palmer said.

Wearing shirts bearing the slogans “Onward” and “Believe in the Power of 10,000,” Starbucks volunteers are scraping and painting dozens of homes in Broadmoor and Hollygrove; painting sections of the Tad Gormley stadium; building a playground at the New Orleans Free Academy, located Uptown; cleaning residential lots and parks in Gentilly; planting an urban vegetable garden in Hollygrove; and fashioning murals and tiled benches at various public schools.

Nearly 40 buses were needed on Monday to haul volunteers around to the myriad work sites.

The coffee shop chain is working closely with several nonprofit groups, including Rebuilding Together, the Crescent City Art Project and the New Orleans Food & Farm Network, and it is providing grants totaling more than $1 million to the groups, representative said.

Starbucks workers from far away were eager to lend a hand in mending a city that still has far to go, Howard Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucks, said Monday during a break at aWalmsley Avenue work site.

“We were surprised, candidly, at some of the conditions that still remain here,” he said.

. . . . . . .

Coleman Warner can be reached at [email protected] or at (504) 826–3311.
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Weeding, Growing, Building in New Orleans!

Dear Friends:

Members from Cross of Life Lutheran Church (Brookfield, Wisconsin), Cross Lutheran Church (Milwaukee), and SeedFolks Youth Ministry (Junior Master Gardeners and local gardeners) have been in New Orleans the past five days working in community gardens, bulding a greenhouse with students from the University of Minnesota, and working with others from around the country, residents of New Orleans and Canada in an effort to get fresh food networks strengthened in inner-city New Orleans. The link below will connect you to a story (without the wonderful pictures) that ran in Sunday’s Times-Picayune, providing a bit more information about this project.

The work we did meant a great deal to the churches, nursing home, health clinic, neighborhoods and people connected to these gardens. The work is no where near complete, and we have decided to make this an annual October service project, with an additional opportunity to work each February. The weather is perfect for this kind of work both of those months! I hope some of you will consider joining us.

Enjoy Autumn and thanks for your work!

Venice R. Williams
SeedFolks Youth Ministry

Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings
Not all things are blest
but the seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.
-Muriel Rukeyser
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ReGrowing Communties Garden Work Event Update

Greetings to you all!

The time is fast approaching for the ReGrowing Communties Garden Work Event to be held in New Orleans, October 9th thru 12th. The purpose of this event is to continue to create a sustainable agricultural network in the heart of New Orleans. It isn’t too late to register! To do so and to learn more about the event go to the following website:

Most of the group traveling from Milwaukee will be staying at a bed and breakfast in the Upper Ninth Ward. That bed and breakfast no longer has space available. If you are interested in finding a bed and breakfast to stay at, go to the New Orleans bed and breakfast website below:

There will also be a New Orleans Film Festival going on while we are there. To access information about the festival, go to the following link:

If you are unable to attend but would like to donate funds for soil, plant material, lumber, tools, fruit trees, ect., checks can be made payable to: The Renaissance Project and mailed to: 836 N. Hennessey Street, New Orleans, LA, 70119. Checks should be mailed by Wednesday, October 1.

Thanks for your support!
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Katrina Relief Office of Jesuits of New Orleans Province

Dear Ignatian Family & Friends and Katrina Relief Colleagues,

After 2 years of operation, the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province have closed the Katrina Relief Office. This has been in our plans since we opened the office 6 months after Hurricane Katrina devastated our region. Initially, we planned to hire a coordinator only for a short time to get us through the initial confusion of helping Jesuit related groups who wanted to come to the region for service and immersion trips. (and in the first six months after Katrina, it really was difficult to find service opportunities, housing and transportation.) Three different times we persuaded our pastoral associate for relief ministries, Jocelyn Sideco, to extend her time with us, and each time she generously agreed to stay on for “just a while longer.”

In the time that Jocelyn has been with the province, she has done an incredible job coordinating volunteer and immersion experiences for numerous Jesuit groups and many other volunteers. The volunteers that the Jesuit Katrina Relief Office worked with have gutted 240 homes and helped rebuild 140 others, giving a total of 132,669 hours of manual labor over the past two years. By now, 22 of 26 Jesuit colleges and universities and 22 of 48 Jesuit secondary schools have come to serve the people of the area 125 times. This is not counting all of the trips made by former Jesuit Volunteer Corps members, men in formation, members and friends of the Ignatian Family. We’ve now got a cadre of rebuilding experts in the Ignatian family and a much better infrastructure in the area through which trip coordinators can work, making this a good time to discontinue the kinds of intensive services the province has provided over the last 30 months.

We know that many groups still want to come to the Gulf Coast region for service and immersion trips, and we encourage you to do so. Hurricane Gustav has also caused much damage in south Louisiana, and the people there will be needing volunteer assistance in the near future. We have made our New Orleans province website more user-friendly, and you should find the information on service sites, housing, transportation, educational and reflection materials that you need to plan your trip. If you would like more hands-on assistance, we urge you to contract directly with Jocelyn Sideco for fee-based services through her Contemplatives in Action organization. A list of what she can offer and a corresponding fee schedule can be found at . The province will continue to coordinate joint prayer services or liturgies and social analysis sessions for Jesuit groups that are in the New Orleans area, so please let us know when you will be in town by contacting me at [email protected] or at (504) 571–1055.

For those receiving this letter who are not volunteers, but who have provided hospitality, service opportunities, education, tours, housing and support, we thank you. It has been a special blessing to work together with so many faithful, dedicated, creative, and flexible people.

While the past 3 years of rebuilding and reordering our lives and ministries have been tough, the Jesuits and lay colleagues of the Gulf Coast area and indeed the people of New Orleans - have been extraordinarily blessed by the generosity of so many volunteers and donors. You have given us strength and hope and faith in our time of need, and we are grateful for all you have done and all you will continue to do to help rebuild our area and become our advocates. We look forward to years of ministering together.

In Solidarity,

Mary Baudouin
Assistant for Social Ministries

The Jesuits, New Orleans Province
Office Phone: (504) 571–1055
Office Fax: (504) 571–1744
Cell Phone: (504) 450–2867
Address: 710 Baronne Street, Suite B New Orleans, LA 70113
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New Orleans Recovery Work of Jesuit Inspired “Contemplatives in Action”

September 9, 2009

Hello everyone,

It’s been awhile! We hope this email finds you and yours well.

Contemplatives in Action is happy to offer you the following update:

We are STILL in New Orleans! Visit our website for weekly prayer reflections and updates.

36 months of hard work

The people of the Gulf Coast have worked long and hard to recovery their families, their businesses, their cities. We honor and commend local groups for their commitment to enlivening this community. About 70% of New Orleans has returned, our levees held during our first major test Hurricane Gustav, tourism is increasing, and vulnerable neighborhoods are becoming a bit more sustainable. For a report on our recovery, check out The New Orleans Index of The Brookings Institute.

For our friends and co-workers here in New Orleans, come and stay with us for a day, a weekend, a week! Visit our website to see our space and check out this invitation. We invite you to distribute this invitation to others as well!

Our Gustav Experience

We all evacuated and are now back in New Orleans. Nothing of consequence happened to our persons or our property. Thank you to those who offered us hospitality during the evacuation. We are eternally grateful for your generosity and care.

Since Gustav and in the wake of Hurricane Ike, CIA has been open for computer use and resource updates, hot meals, laundry facilities, and an air-conditioned space for those still living without electricity.

New Staff

In addition to our part-timers, Meghan Hasser and Geoffrey Hennies, Anna Villanueva, R.N. joins us to assist in coordinating our volunteer groups or Thoughtful Response Teams. Visit our website for more information about Anna and how to sign-up to be a Thoughtful Response Team!

Project Marlo: Help Us Help Marlo Help Others

A retired registered nurse and Katrina survivor, Marlo Stevens owns three properties that require renovation in order for her to initiate access to healthcare in her neighborhood. She is partnering with Contemplatives in Action for labor and planning. We need skilled roofers, carpenters, electricians, and landscapers! If you or someone you know can help will skills, time, or money, please call us at 504.891.8483 or email us at [email protected] Also, look for our PROJECT MARLO brochure on our website

Your prayers are always welcome as we embark on our 3rd year of service in New Orleans.

For a more detailed account of what’s going on with us, take a moment to read our Special Edition: Third Anniversary Newsletter.

Peace and all good things,

Jocelyn A. Sideco

Executive Director

[email protected]
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Jill Robinson Interview w. Karen Gadbois and Laureen Lentz, New Orleans Architectural Activists and More!

Squandered Heritage
by Jill Robinson
Mon, August 27, 2007, 8:00 am PDT

Karen Gadbois and Laureen Lentz

The size and scope of Hurricane Katrina sent New Orleans residents across the country, and many still want to return. But without a house, it’s not an easy task.

With Squandered Heritage, Karen Gadbois, Laureen Lentz, and Sarah Elise Lewis banded together to track lists upon lists of demolitions for the communitysometimes being the first to tell homeowners that their homes were on the chopping block. They’ve spend countless hours at citywide meetings, scanning through documents, photographing homes, and helping their neighbors rescue the unique heritage of the Crescent City.

In the midst of all their work, the trio still had time to share what inspires them and what they love about New Orleans.

What made you decide to start Squandered Heritage?

Karen: To capture our city as it was Post Katrina. Then tell the story of demolitions and the impact of loss.

Laureen: I met Karen at a small soire last August. Architecture has been a lifelong passion since my teenage years in Chicago, and one reason I love New Orleans. Our streetscapes provide an enchanting background for the mundane routine of daily life and work. I was beginning to become concerned about the impact of the demolitions on our historic districts, and was already taking photos of hand demolitions done before Karen and I met. So the partnership was a perfect match.

I had purchased my own historic home in Trem to renovate, but it was in very bad shape and did not survive Katrina’s winds. This was a great replacement for my time on that project. I had also been a volunteer for the Preservation Resource Center for about 10 years and was doing some writing for their publication, “Preservation in Print,” before I met Karen. This was a great way to write about architecture and make public information accessible and pertinent with photos. It merged my talents as a librarian and my passion for architecture and writing.

Do you know how many people have found out about the demolition of their home (either before or after it happened) on your site?

Karen: I know of a few, but one stands out: a rabbi in New York. He somehow found my phone number and called me crying while I was standing in the street watching someone else’s house get demolished. It was a very unreal moment and made me realize the value of what we are doing as well as the responsibility to do it right.

Sarah: I could not begin to guess how many homeowners learned of the possible demolition of their houses from either our website or a personal visit from one of us from Squandered Heritage. All together it might be about 100.

What’s been the most inspiring thing you’ve seen since Katrina and the flood?

Karen: Really simple things move me. For example there’s a group of people who mow the grass at City Park. There is a saying, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I believe that the New Orleanians who “show up” by staying in a city that is very difficult to live in are an inspiration.

I also believe that the continued support by volunteers who come and do the dirty work of helping out is an inspiration. When you see some kid who could easily be spending their spring break in Cancun choosing to come here instead, you realize that they are taking back a piece of New Orleans and that is the most powerful message we can send.

Laureen: The help of volunteers across the nation has been our only real saving grace. I got swept up in it and joined the Americorps ranks last May for one year just because I wanted to help people. I did not want to sit behind a desk at one of the universities. With the lack of help from the government, average people from all over the world have been our only hope. The involvement of the citizens in the civic process has been a significant phenomenon in New Orleans. The blogging community has had a big impact in building that counter-culture.

Sarah: Bar none, the most inspiring development in New Orleans since Katrina has been the growth of strong grassroots organizations, buttressed by personal relationships among neighbors. As Councilmember-At-Large Arnie Fielkow said at one neighborhood meeting, “It’s not true that nothing is going on in New Orleans. A lot of progress is going on in New Orleans. You just have to go into the neighborhoods to see it.”

What do you love the most about New Orleans?

Karen: Before the storm, I just loved the fluid cadence of life. We seemed to have lost it, but every day I see a little bit of it coming back. I think we are all sort of living with Stockholm syndrome in the way that New Orleans is our captor. Right now she treats us mean, but we love her in spite of it. Not a day goes by that people are not talking about leaving, but it is like they have taken the padlocks off the cell door and we are still here. I love that my daughter is being raised in the midst of a messy democracy.

Laureen: The architecture and the tree canopies. The people have taught me a lot about community that does not exist in Chicago (where I’m from). They help each other every day!

Sarah: I’m a native New Orleanian, and my family has been here almost 200 years. That’s not very long compared to many, but still a tremendous history of cultural and personal integration. Every day that I live in New Orleans, I’m reminded that I’m sharing the same space that my grandmother and her grandmother loved.

What are some of your daily reads online?

Karen: I read Your Right Hand Thief, Library Chronicles,, Ashley Morris: the Blog, b.rox, Maitri’s VatulBlog, and Think New Orleans.

Laureen: Not that many. I read and Bart Everson’s blog (b.rox). He introduced Karen and me. He doesn’t just rant about things he has read in the paper or drivel on about boring daily diary stuff. I don’t have a steady read routine, but I do love Your Right Hand Thief and Some Came Running for their thorough work.

Sarah: Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to read blogs as I used to. I mostly read the Times-Picayune online.

Besides your daily reads, what are some of your favorite blogs or sites about New Orleans and recovery?

Karen: I like moldy city, American Zombie, and Michael Homan’s blog.

Is there anything that’s surprised you about the site? Anything you regret?

Karen: I regret not having the brains or money to make it a better, more beefed-up site. There are a lot of holes in it. The information is coming in so fast and furious that we have not had time to breathe, and we look forward to building the site.

Laureen: We wished we had upgraded to a web site about four months after we started. That way, we could feature multiple issues and have a more user-friendly site, but we have literally been swamped with demands from City Council and a constantly rotating problem with the management of the demolitions. We simply could not stop and start again.

Sarah: I’m always surprised and humbled by the positive response we’ve gotten, and the dialogue we’ve been able to participate in through the blog.

How has Squandered Heritage changed things for you?

Karen: Well, for me personally, it has made me feel that the most vital link in this recovery is the grass roots energy. We have created a model for our own media. We write the story. We will not be ignored when it comes to redefining this city. Bloggers in particular have forged a very strong bond.

Laureen: I know what we are doing is vital if only for its documentary value, not to mention the service we provide now as advocates. No one else is doing this. It does seem to be a natural extension of my passions. How fortunate that Karen and Sarah and I could essentially create our own niche and job from this passion after a year of struggling.

Sarah: Squandered Heritage has changed my entire lifestyle. It’s now a full time job for memore than a full time job, really. It’s given me the ability to create a professional life centered around two things I lovehistoric architecture and civic discourse.

What’s the biggest thing that we can do for the people of New Orleans?

Karen: I think what people can do for us is to just remember that the damage done to this city and caused the deaths of thousands was an engineering failure. Not a natural disaster. This country needs to reinvest in itself, including infrastructure, as well as education and health care.

Laureen: We need economic development, jobs, and education to get out of this violent crime situation which is chasing people away and killing people. We need investment in our city in the way of smart rebuilding. Slab on grade was a bad idea, and developers sold people down the river when they built against the tradition already unique to the area. It may happen all over again. We need government transparency to attract economic development and faith in our educational system. The bloggers help keep the politicians honest along with the mainstream media.

Sarah: Tell your elected officials that, while the people of New Orleans fight every day to rebuild the city, we still need help. Urge them to support further funding for recovery efforts.

What do you want people to know about the current state of the city and what its residents need right now?

Karen: We live in a very fragile city. All our institutions, the ones that worked as well as the ones that didn’t, are in a state of chaos with a slow movement towards reconfiguring. Our fate is your fate.

Laureen: People need money to rebuild. In our depressed areas, we need the option not of rental but a program of public housing that permits people to own their homes. This would be fundamental. How do we spend so much money in Iraq and yet are afraid to give a homeowner here $150,000 to rebuild their house? People like Karen and me who are involved in forcing change and documenting all we see are exhausted.

Sarah: New Orleans is worth saving. Not just because we are the birthplace of jazz or a throwback to a more “authentic” cultural experience that was lost in most urban areas with the advent of more hegemonic American culture. We’re worth saving because we are people fighting every day to rebuild our community. We are not just a vestige of the past, but people who are making great sacrifices to try to build a more equitable, culturally rich future.

Thanks, ladies! You’re our heroes!
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Architectural Soul of New Orleans At Stake

Architectural soul of the city at stake
Posted by Doug MacCash August 27, 2007 9:48PM

By Doug MacCash
Staff writer for

“After the storm, the first thing people asked was, ‘How’s your house?’” recalled Tulane University architecture professor John P. Klingman of those nail-biting days almost two years ago, when storm and flood seemed to have destroyed or scarred every structure in New Orleans.

“My house was OK,” he said. “But I realized ‘How’s your house?’ was the wrong question. The question was about my city.”

Two years later, the question, “How’s your city?” is still tough to answer. Architecturally speaking, New Orleans is in flux. The past is not quite over, the present is contentious and the future has not quite begun. As the Neville Brothers might have sung it — if the Neville Brothers still sang in these parts — New Orleans architecture is sitting here in limbo, waiting for the tide to turn.

True, most of the city’s best-loved landmarks, both historical, such as the St. Louis Cathedral, and contemporary, such as the Louisiana Superdome and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, stand ready to have their pictures snapped by tourists, as they did before Hurricane Katrina.

The colorful Creole townhouses of the French Quarter are still pressed charmingly cheek to cheek. Most Garden District mansions purse their lips as proudly as they did before the storm. Gilded-era St. Charles Avenue mansions patiently await the return of streetcar-riding admirers.

Preservation Resource Center Director Patricia Gay reports that of the 1,200 buildings in the historic Lower Garden District, only 27 were lost because of the storm. Unlike San Francisco after the earthquake or Chicago after the fire, New Orleans retains much of her long-relied-upon architectural appeal two years after Katrina.

But Klingman, like most observers, points out that painful architectural losses took place — and continue to take place — on a grand scale, mostly in less well-known stretches of the city where tour buses rarely strayed before the failed levees transformed them into such compelling wastelands.

Innumerable homes and whole streets, blocks and neighborhoods of what Klingman calls “everyday architecture” were ruined. The city estimates 105,000 buildings were severely damaged by storm and flood, representing a $14 billion residential loss.

“We all knew they were great neighborhoods,” Klingman said, “but other people had no idea. They’d never heard of Gentilly or the Lower 9th Ward.”

“We’ve lost a good deal of our 20th century city,” said John Magill, a historian with The Historic New Orleans Collection. “What we have truly lost is our slab city. It’s been decimated, and it’s hard for that to come back.”

Magill understands the emotional attachment many New Orleanians felt for the post-World War suburban-style homes, many built with their concrete slab bellies pressed against land recently reclaimed from Lake Pontchartrain and its lowlands.

These neighborhoods were built at a time “when we were out looking for the American Dream, with carports, a TV room and enough bathrooms,” he said, and even if the slab homes — what one architect called “one-story brick-veneer dreams” — were more or less indistinguishable from developer-driven clones found from coast to coast, they meant a great deal to the people who lived in them.

The only thing that set this city’s post-war neighborhoods apart was the lake looming on the other side of the levees and seawalls. Eisenhower-era Lakeview developers courted irony when they described the low-lying landscaping of Canal Boulevard as “sunken gardens.”

“There are so many houses lost. Nobody can comprehend what’s gone,” Magill said.

Geographer Richard Campanella, associate director of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane University, does his best to comprehend such things. Long before Katrina, Campanella busied himself producing maps that plot the historical spread of the city — and the floods that long kept that spread in check. His conclusions are logical: Generally speaking, the higher the ground, the older and more architecturally precious the house.

Creole, Spanish Colonial, Greek Revival and Italianate styles dominate the highest ground closest to the river and along the high ridges that the river left behind, Campanella said. Victorian shotguns, early 20th century bungalows, Spanish Revival villas from the roaring ‘20s, and between-the-wars English cottages “straddle sea level.” Finally, he said, “ubiquitous ranch houses, split levels, and the classic modern American suburban house are 3 to 12 feet below sea level.”

“You don’t need a topographic map to determine elevation in New Orleans, if you have a good architectural eye,” he said.

Campanella believes that at the two-year mark, the struggle to preserve Crescent City architecture is most pitched not in the historic sliver by the river or in the ghostly post-war neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the flood, but in what he calls “the back of town”: intermediate zones in Gentilly, Treme, Central City and Broadmoor, below the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, where the working-class houses were old but not ancient, damaged but not devastated.

“The shotguns and cottages in the back of town are typical of New Orleans and rare throughout the rest of the nation,” he said. “You’re not going to find them in Long Beach and Denver.”

Long before Katrina and the failed levees , New Orleans’ architectural fabric was already showing signs of wear. Termites, leaking roofs, cat’s claw vines and the pull of poverty had dragged a large percentage of the city’s housing stock to the brink of the architectural abyss.

Reed Kroloff, the former director of the Tulane School of Architecture who accepted the directorship of Cranbrook Academy of Art in May and last week left wilted New Orleans for the crisper climes of lower Michigan, estimates that 30,000 properties were already in jeopardy to one degree or another before Katrina.

Now bureaucracy can be added to the list of dangers. The city has during the past several months compiled lists of structures so badly damaged or dilapidated that they are in need of architectural euthanasia.

The trouble is, according to ad hoc architectural activists Karen Gadbois and Laureen Lentz, the list is prone to significant error. Of the 1,630 structures listed as imminent health threats by the city, “one-third are wrong, a third need re-evaluation and a third need to go,” said Lentz, who advocates the removal of some buildings as strongly as the salvation of others. The end has come for 236 properties already. Gadbois and Lentz’s Web site,, catalogs threatened homes.

On a steamy morning last week, the pair pointed to a vintage four-bay Victorian house on a tree-lined section of what Campanella might call the back of town, just off the Esplanade Ridge.

The clapboards were even and intact, the seal-tab roof smooth, the chimneys erect, the shutters secure and the gingerbread in place. Judging by the flood line on adjacent buildings, water may have barely reached the floorboards of the old beauty, but no higher. Yet, Gadbois and Lentz said, the home appeared for a time on the city’s list of houses slated for demolition, only to disappear later, leaving them relieved but disquieted.

“We’re definitely in a crisis,” Lentz said of the complex citywide situation. “We’re over our heads and can’t manage it.”

Considering the already staggering destruction, Lentz said, “We don’t want to lose one more by mistake.”

While it would seem preposterous to accidentally destroy sound, irreplaceable architecture in the post-Katrina environment, to many it is even worse to do so on purpose.

For several architects, the demolition of the space-age St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church in Gentilly in June qualifies as an unnecessary loss of an irreplaceable icon.

The church was demolished to make room for Holy Cross School, which is relocating from its historic campus in the Lower 9th Ward.

There were pressing reasons for the relocation, and the struggling, badly flooded neighborhood welcomed the refugee school. Also, the church’s strange, sprawling mid-20th-century design by Curtis and Davis apparently did not match the school’s early-21st-century vision. Nonetheless, the demolition became a cautionary post-Katrina fable among architects and preservationists.

“There was absolutely no reason to destroy it,” said Kroloff, adding that the demise of the 1962 structure resulted from a combination of “irrational fears and rash planning.”

Architect Allen Eskew agreed, adding as a factor in the decision a long-held prejudice in New Orleans against modernism. Similar eye-catching modernist buildings are sprinkled across New Orleans, Eskew said. “But we have this horrible, horrible disease in this city, that if it’s not antebellum, it has no value.”

The heroically art deco Charity Hospital, the playfully futuristic Plaza Towers (the 44-story skyscraper once appraised at a mere $100,000), the Bauhaus-like City Hall, and the robustly built Lafitte public housing complex all have been nominated as wrecking ball candidates.

In their place are proposed a number of grand visions for a brighter and bolder post-Katrina New Orleans, most of them still on paper.

In the months after Katrina, city planning guru Andres Duany strutted from one rebuilding charrette to another, preaching the doctrine of New Urbanism, with its high-density, walkable lifestyle.

Tulane architecture students and other young visionaries designed what they called URBANbuilt homes, offering adventuresome builders contemporary alternatives to phony historic styles.

Movie star and architecture buff Brad Pitt waved the flag for ecologically sensitive, energy-efficient construction, such as Global Green USA’s nascent Holy Cross affordable housing development.

And a variety of pundits, including Kroloff, who was once part of the city’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission, called for a taller New Orleans, erected on a smaller, dryer footprint.

Yet, at the two-year mark, those progressive possibilities have barely gotten a toe-hold in K-Ville.

Duany’s name is linked to Renaissance Town Center, a quaint 80-acre shopping plaza in the eastern New Orleans flood zone. Trucked-in prefab houses are being assembled in Lakeview, where confidence in the re-engineered pump and levee protection, to be complete in 2011, seems to be growing.

A swooping highway ramp is being built on Interstate 10 in Metairie that will better funnel suburban sprawl to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Kroloff considers flight to bedroom communities across the Causeway to be one of the greatest threats to the future of New Orleans.

And some preservationists protest taller, denser San Francisco-esque rebuilding, arguing that such buildings would literally and figuratively overshadow low-rise neighborhoods.

As New Orleans architect Peter Trapolin put it: “We want high density, on the high ground — but not in my neighborhood.”

A few high-rise hives, however, seem destined to find their place in the sun. Trapolin and Foil/Wyatt Architects of Jackson, Miss., found a neighborhood with no height restrictions to stake out their 25-story, $55 million Tracage condominiums in the Warehouse District, scheduled for completion in 2009.

But if the high ground won’t soon be crowded shoulder to shoulder with new high-density residential construction, it could be studded with a few isolated, eye-catching public buildings, as magnetic to tourists as the Creole landmarks in the Vieux Carre.

Visible someday from a Tracage condo, the National World War II Museum plans a $300 million expansion by Voorsanger Mathes, LLC, including an immense re-engineered, more-weather-resistant-than-originally-planned awning that will shield the pilgrims trekking to the Greatest Generation landmark. The expansion is due for completion by 2014.

Those projects were in the hopper before Katrina. But, despite rising construction costs, diminished population and general uncertainty, new post-storm proposals have come down the pike, including striking international designs that some feel will finally drag New Orleans into a new era. Other onlookers fear they may be nothing more than a post-Katrina distraction. Or worse, that they could sully the unique flavor of the city.

In the Central Business District, uberdeveloper and reality television star and Donald Trump plans a $400 million, 68-story Trump International Hotel and Tower, which would be the city’s tallest. It’s designed by Adache Group Architects in Pensacola, Fla., and includes 622 condominium units.

Mexican rising star Enrique Norten headlines a team of planners who may eventually convert New Orleans’ sadly dilapidated industrial riverfront into a serpentine urban park, studded with futuristic structures. The as-yet-unfinanced $1 billion Reinventing the Crescent project, as it’s known, is envisioned for completion in 2018.

Los Angeles architect Thom Mayne, winner of the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s Oscar, has conceived a $100 million National Jazz Center performance hall that he envisions on Loyola Avenue in the next five years. Mayne’s earlier post-K dream of a blocks-long modernist municipal mall has withered on the vine, leaving him a bit bewildered and bitter.

“I have to tell you, the outsiders are more interested in your town than the insiders — not counting certain people,” Mayne said.

Mayne lays the blame for the demise of his park project squarely on a lack of city leadership.

“No one wants to pick up the ball and run with it,” he said. “I don’t know how long before the whole city atrophies.”

He’s not alone in his impatience. Eskew, who has a hand in Mayne’s National Jazz Center project and the Reinventing the Crescent riverfront redevelopment, also is worried that the time for decisive government action is slipping away.

“We have a city of global significance,” he said. “We’ve had it destroyed by a federal flood. The perpetrator of that flood has not stepped forward and taken responsibility. What they’ve done is put a city of global significance at risk.”

Like many local architects, Eskew fears that New Orleans’ emergency mindset may lead to quick-and-dirty design and construction. Old schools and other neighborhood institutions, which are “built like fortresses,” could be replaced by “cheap replicate buildings.” He worries that body-snatcher imitations of historic structures might edge out contemporary design.

Indeed, the first major French Quarter construction to be completed since the storm is the far-from-cheap $4 million expansion of The Historic New Orleans Collection by Davis Jahncke. The quality building is nevertheless a painstakingly authentic replica of an 1850s hotel — perhaps understandable given that it’s a French Quarter history museum.

Still, Eskew echoes some of his colleagues when he warns against slavish and nostalgic devotion to the past as New Orleans moves forward.

“As we repair the city, we need to repair with integrity,” Eskew said, “and as we build, we need to do it in its own time with authenticity. ... The danger is, we may be losing that window with an absence of effective leadership.

“The loss in our community has been profound,” he said, “New Orleans will certainly survive. But it will be a different New Orleans.”

Doug MacCash can be reached at [email protected] or (504) 826–3481.

Staff writer Michelle Krupa contributed to this report.
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Assistance Needed for Relief Work in the Wake of Hurricane Gustov

From: Heather Gray <[email protected]>
Date: Sep 2, 2008 4:32 PM

For Immediate Release: September 2, 2008
Contact: Cornelius Blanding 404 765 0991
Federation of Southern Cooperatives / Land Assistance Fund

ATLANTA… As hurricane Gustov burst into the Gulf coast of Mississippi and Louisiana, once again rural, urban and fishing communities in the area were effected. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund needs financial assistance to continue it’s “Relief & Recovery Project” to assist these communities in need. Please go to our website at to donate. (The Federation is a 501©3 non-profit tax deductible organization.)

The Federation’s “Relief & Recovery Project”, that was created in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster three years ago, will continue its mission of assisting impacted communities from this latest hurricane with (1) Housing - assistance to access government resources and the development of cooperative housing (2) Legal Concerns - how to work effectively with contractors; and home ownership legal issues and documents needed for protection and for government/private contracts (3) Access to Government Resources - assistance in accessing government resources generally for the vast needs that arise as a result of hurricane destabilization, and (4) Cooperative Economic Development - working together in economic ventures strengthens economic opportunities generally through the pooling of resources and can always help communities sustain themselves in the event of disasters through collective assistance.

We thank you in advance for your assistance as we serve communities who are now impacted by this latest hurricane along the Gulf Coast.


Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 41st year, assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.
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