Laurel Street Blog

How can you argue with this?

Posted on: July 3, 2009

Photo: KEVIN ZANSLER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE A model of the new Columbia Parc housing complex, which sits on the site of the former St. Bernard housing complex

Photo: KEVIN ZANSLER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE A model of the new Columbia Parc housing complex, which sits on the site of the former St. Bernard housing complex

Or this?

Rendering of Columbia Parc, New Orleans

Rendering of Columbia Parc, New Orleans


Rendering of Columbia Parc, New Orleans


Rendering of Columbia Parc, New Orleans

I love New Orleans, deeply. However, there is resistance to innovation that bubbles up all too often in our city… I saw it most recently and succinctly summed up by a local on one of the episodes of “Architecture School,” a T.V. series that focused on the complete design and construction of a new home in long neglected neighborhood (Central City) by Tulane architecture students. The students were challenged to understand the vernacular architectural language of New Orleans buildings, then create a new innovative sustainable, modern design in that setting.

Asked for comment on a previous house that was built, a neighbor said to the camera: “That doesn’t belong here. Look around at these other houses. We’re not guinea pigs.”

A city filled with humble and efficient shotgun homes, creole cottages, and grand St. Charles Avenue mansions, majestic cast iron galleries of the French Quarter…. Well, a city like this is not always able to immediately grasp the benefit of a new design.

Yes, New Orleanians tenaciously cling to the past. However, not all of our past is, in fact, worth saving.

St. Bernard Project Building

One of nearly 100 barracks-style buildings in the former St. Bernard Housing Project

And yet folks still argue. Vociferously. The model and renderings of a new development called Columbia Parc (shown at top) will soon replace the Roosevelt-era New Orleans housing project known as St. Bernard. Located only four blocks from the vast and lush New Orleans City Park, these buildings were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, were demolished (amid great protest) and will be replaced by the master-planned, mixed-income community shown above. This is not the much maligned gentrification of the 70’s. This is the creation of a new community, from the ground up, to meet the needs of a wide range of residents – first and foremost the former residents of St. Bernard (applications are being accepted now).

The new Columbia Parc development is sustainable, LEED certified and filled with amenities that growing families can enjoy.  Two schools, an early learning center, a recreation facility, retail shops, a library plus a community entertainment complex featuring:

– Entertainment rooms
– Catering kitchen
– Internet café
– 46-seat resident movie theatre
– Resident conference room
– Fitness center
– Interactive splash park
– Resort-style pool with sun decks & lounge furniture
– Playground & tot lot

So why everyone continues to argue about replacing things like this (see below) in New Orleans is simply beyond me.

St. Bernard Kid Spot

St. Bernard Kid Spot

4 Responses to "How can you argue with this?"

I don’t understand the resistance to this kind of development. Am I missing something?

I love the residential, shopping proximity. I;m sure this will give plenty of people a walk to work opportunity. Nice landscaping. Looks very nice.

This is a fascinating post! The renderings you show are beautiful and seem to be sympathetic to the style of New Orleans, yet forward looking to the needs of the city. It is amazing how people can cling to the ‘comfort’ of the past, despite the clear changes that need to be made.

I thought your point about ‘not all of the past is, in fact, worth saving’ to be the crux of the issue.

I really enjoyed this post. You write beautifully!

In Atlanta they’ve now torn down most of the projects, including “Techwood” the first in the nation. All were awful, none beloved, poor even compared to St. Bernard Housing Project. They won’t be missed. But it seems there are fistfights about every urban project. They say they are more “mixed” than they turn out to be. Mixing usually means moving some some lower income folks out and replacing them with some higher income folks. Doing the politics is much harder than the doing design and raising capital. Y’all are welcome to send the Columbia Parc plans up here.

Such a fab post Nate – read it a couple of days ago & had to ponder on it. Yes, we have the same issues here in Australia, although compared to you guys we are such a young country. I have lived in an old Victorian era stone villa, with all its foibles, so know where this is coming from. The developments you have written about are vibrant & considered, sustainable & friendly. N.O is not losing something, they are gaining something important – a really unique precinct of which they should be proud. Hope you & R. are managing to stay cool as best you can
Millie ^_^

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Laurel Street Blog

Nate and Louis

Well, hey there. I'm Nathan and this is the Laurel Street Blog. It's a place for talking about design, decor and DIY (with small amounts of snarkery snuck in). I'm a pretty restless guy who loves house projects and lives in a 150+ year old cottage on Laurel Street in New Orleans. Since the house always has something going on with it (or falling off of it) I'm subsequently blessed with a never-ending supply of Web content to share. Oh - and you can drop me a line anytime Enjoy!

Can I get a tweet up in here? Follow along @LaurelStreet

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