Due in large part to the lack of adequate economic, community, and environmental infrastructure in New Orleans post-Katrina, the population declined from 485,00 in 2000 to 345,000 in 2014, yielding significant blight and vacancy. Despite an overall decline in population, New Orleans has experienced an increase in its Latino and Vietnamese populations, which creates an opportunity to implement a vacant land revitalization strategy that encourages community building amongst diverse groups. Given these conditions, we propose an inclusive community-driven strategy that can be successful at a smaller scale and also create a framework for future growth. Our key ideas are community participation, creation of a citywide greenspace network, and economic development.
A Community-Driven Strategy
The first step of our framework is to expand upon the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s (NORA) “Lot Next Door” (LND) program that disposes of city-owned vacant parcels to contiguous property owners at fair market value. From 2007-2013 LND led to the successful purchase of 1,200 lots by adjacent owners, returning those lots to the city’s tax roll, and improving quality of life for nearby residents. Our proposed initiative, Growing Community, would build on current NORA programs by introducing a cooperative ownership alternative that would allow neighbors living around a blighted parcel to purchase the lot collectively.
Unlike LND, which requires a large financial contribution from a single buyer, this alternative would be lower-cost and encourage community-oriented uses, environmental restoration, and long-term investment. It would also better serve New Orleans’ vulnerable populations, such as low-income residents, immigrants, and seniors that may lack the funds or capacity to purchase and maintain a parcel independently.
Creation of Citywide Greenspace Network
Under Growing Community, a coalition of residents could purchase a lot at a subsidized rate if they commit to implementing a community-oriented greenspace on-site and maintaining it for a minimum of 5 years. The city-owned vacant lot(s) would become the site of a program selected by the residents from a series of options that would allow for productive and environmentally responsible land use. In an eff ort to create a sustainable citywide greensapce network in the long-term, residents will be encouraged to select uses for their site based on a series of environmental, economic, and geographic conditions. For example, in low-lying neighborhoods with high subsidence (e.g. Ponchartrain Park), uses that maximize stormwater retention would be prioritized. In more environmentally and economically stable neighborhoods (e.g. OC Haley), active greenspaces, such as community gardens, would serve as interim uses to improve property values and promote real estate development.
A percentage of the proceeds from the land sales would go towards funding qualified non-profits to provide technical assistance and job training programs for participating residents. With the long-term objective of these greenspaces becoming profit and job-generating enterprises, relevant training programs could include urban agriculture techniques, entrepreneurship training, non-profit management, and community organizing. Growing Community would thus create a partnership between the city, non-profit organizations, and local residents to encourage community and economic development in high needs neighborhoods.
Location: New Orleans, LA
Project Type: Feasibility Study
Design Period: 2014
In collaboration with Sahar Baghaii and Sarit Platkin