New Orleans, Louisiana
Unified New Orleans Plan Citywide Recovery Framework
It is rare that a community starts a planning process with a goal of setting out in a new direction to look at non-traditional community planning issues and reflect upon the changing nature and structure of their own community and economic activity. Following the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the City of New Orleans engaged residents in a planning process to envision a new sustainable future for their communities. The result of an intensive five month process, The Unified New Orleans Plan is the single, comprehensive recovery and rebuilding plan for the City of New Orleans. Through intense analysis and an aggressive timeline, the design team completed three district Recovery Plans for District 2 (Central City and the Garden District), District 8 (the Lower Ninth Ward), District 13 (English Turn), and a neighborhood plan for District 12 (Algiers). These plans were merged into one city-wide plan that includes comprehensive infrastructure recommendations for flood protection. The final city-wide plan was accepted in 2007, setting in motion the release of $117 million in federal grants for infrastructure repairs for government and non-profit entities across the city.
Plans were completed in four phases. Phase one involved interviewing key stakeholders in the area; demographic and housing characteristics analysis; economic base analysis; access, circulation and transportation; existing conditions and urban design analysis and identification/review of all existing information and data; development of case studies, and a work-session. Phase two involved the development of goals and principles for the city through the use of the visual preference survey. The third phase of work involved drafting a Development Strategy and Comprehensive Recovery Framework with a series of focus area development plans, and a final phase completing the Community Recovery Plan.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana in the early hours of August 29, 2005, and Hurricane Rita subsequently on September 24, 2005. The combined devastation of these two monstrous storms encompasses the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. It is estimated over 1,500 people died in Louisiana, while 18,000 businesses and more than 200,000 housing units were destroyed. Critical infrastructure such as roads, schools, public facilities and medical services were washed away. The largest city in Louisiana, New Orleans, once the center of transportation, economy, industry and tourism of the state, suffered an overwhelming disaster. As a result, 80% of the city was flooded, around 150,000 houses destroyed and over 450,000 residents evacuated. Storm surge pushed ashore by the Hurricane Katrina caused the city and state to suffer the worst civil engineering disaster in American history.
The citizens of New Orleans in each district were deeply involved in the project team selection process. Public meetings were held to allow citizens and neighborhood groups the opportunity to indicate their preferred planning team.
The recovery framework suggests projects and strong public/private partnerships, guided by the community and their representatives, to facilitate a sustainable urban resilient recovery of the city. Their recovery will provide not only the basic necessities of Pre-Katrina status, but a scenario to rebuild the city with holistic preparedness for the future. The strong community initiatives, programs, and recovery projects are detailed in the master plan.
District 2: A Framework for Sustainable Urban Resilience
District 2 presents a comprehensive cross section of New Orleans as a whole because it comprises multiple neighborhoods, each of which has a unique character. District 2 experienced a large variation of impact from Hurricane Katrina due to its elevation both above and below sea level. The portions below sea level were originally swamp land, drained, developed and inhabited after the areas closer to the River were settled. District 2 occupies the downriver portion of what is commonly referred to as the “crescent” of the Mississippi River, with the Warehouse District and Central Business District to its downriver side, the Uptown neighborhoods to its upriver side, residential neighborhoods and industrial use to its lake-side, and mixed use and the Port of New Orleans along its river-side. Three scenarios for recovery focus on timeframes and try to understand how the district and city might look in the future: RE Pair, RE Hab, and RE Vision. The chosen scenario was a RE Hab +, one defined by Sustainable Urban Resilience. Sustainable Urban Resilience focuses not only on infrastructure repair and public improvements, but also creating a place that is safer from disasters and improves the quality of life for all residents. The plan takes a proactive step to protect oneself while living with risk; it is the capacity to adjust to threats and to mitigate or avoid harm. Sustainable Urban Resilience is a framework that at this critical crossroad and rare moment for the future of a complex and culturally rich historical District provides a tremendous opportunity to develop the cohesiveness of the planning unit at large, providing a holistic approach that prior to Katrina was almost non-existent. The plan is the chance to turn disaster into opportunity, to break down barriers between neighborhoods, and unite them through physical and social form to facilitate recovery and sustainable urbanity.
District 8: A Framework for Sustainable Resilience in the Lower Ninth Ward
District 8 is approximately 2.8 square miles of the city, and is bounded by Florida Avenue on the north, the Orleans/ St. Bernard Parish line on the east, the Mississippi River on the south, and the Industrial Canal on the west. There are two neighborhoods within the district: Lower Ninth Ward and Holy Cross. The Lower Ninth Ward was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. When a community loses its center it suffers, and when it loses its people it’s irreparably affected. The Lower Ninth Ward’s social infrastructure and physical infrastructure were shattered on August 29, 2005.
Through an intense community planning process, the design team worked closely with the residents and neighborhood associations of the Lower Ninth to develop a recovery plan and a strong set of goals and principles to guide the Lower Ninth’s revitalization and unique place in New Orleans’ history. The residents prepared a unified vision and a framework for recovery. This initiative identifies needs, challenges, and opportunities and to provide a strategy on how the community can begin to meet their recovery head on, while laying a road map for their survivability.
“As we, the residents, rebuild our lives for today and help to rebuild the future of New Orleans, a united and revitalized Lower Ninth Ward Community will retain a unique sense of identity as the symbol of the impending rebirth of the entire region. We, the residents, are and will become again, a diverse Community that celebrates its many historic assets, as well as its natural and man-made resources. We will remain a steadfast Community that welcomes back its former residents, while openly inviting new residents into vastly improved neighborhoods, with good streets, better services, parks and open spaces and transportation connections. Respectful of our architectural heritage and fabric, our Community will sensitively rehabilitate existing buildings and construct new buildings employing sustainable design principles; and to the extent possible encourage affordability and innovation in the design of new building type. Our Community will provide amenities and a quality of life accessible to all groups of all ages, economic bases, and ethnic backgrounds…a Community of and by choice.” - Community Vision