Update: NOLA Charrette Will Help Gentilly Rebuild

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Scenes from Day 3: Andres Duany leads the first public meeting in St. Leo's Sanctuary; the intersection of Clematis and Levander is targeted for redevelopment; New Orleans City Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell welcomes residents to the charrette. Photos by Sandy Sorlien.

First New Orleans Charrette Will Help Gentilly Residents Rebuild and Renew Their Community
Originally posted April 17, 2006

NEW ORLEANS – With the arrival on Tuesday, April 18, of a volunteer team of architects, planners, transportation engineers and other professionals, New Orleans gets its first exposure to an intensive process that New Urbanists have used to help more than 15 hurricane-damaged cities and towns in Louisiana and Mississippi move forward with plans to rebuild and renew their communities.

The focus of this week’s charrette -- led by CNU co-founder Andres Duany -- will be rebuilding New Orleans’ Gentilly community. The results should provide a model for planning in other New Orleans neighborhoods and citywide. The “charrette” – an intensely concentrated planning process that includes public meetings and near-round-the-clock design – will be headquartered at the St. Leo the Great Catholic Church at 2916 Paris Ave. in New Orleans.

The 35-40-person team is composed largely of members of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) from across the nation, including a large contingent from Duany's Miami-based firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. By the final presentation on April 25, the group will have created detailed plans for rebuilding Gentilly neighborhoods and establishing a new town center near the University of New Orleans. The designers will work in collaboration with planners from UNO to produce a plan for the campus that better services the university community and better connects with Gentilly. Zoning code specialists will develop a custom-calibrated, ready-to-enact alternative to the outdated city code that can enable the community’s vision for its future. And builders under the direction of Duany’s designers will begin construction of at least three more prototypes in the Katrina Cottage family of designs on leased lots in Gentilly.

The nation has watched our city struggle to make planning progress, says Scott Darrah, president of the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association, which invited the Duany team. “We are convinced it’s time to demonstrate that one neighborhood can embrace a constructive process, adopt innovative design approaches, and move toward immediate implementation. That’s why we’re excited to partner with a group of consultants who have the most enviable track record in post-Katrina planning.”

New Urbanists have led the most productive post-Katrina planning efforts in Mississippi and Louisiana. In fact, the only plans moving through stages of implementation are ones initiated at charrettes led by Duany and other veteran New Urbanists. In Mississippi last October, CNU and the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal brought nearly 200 international and local planning specialists together for the Mississippi Renewal Forum. Teams headed by veteran CNU planners and architects created plans and zoning codes for 11 communities and three counties. The majority of those communities have remained engaged with design teams and moved the plans toward implementation. Six communities including Gulfport and Pass Christian are creating new form-based zoning codes to help guide new development to take the form of cohesive neighborhoods envisioned in the plans. In Louisiana, the Louisiana Recovery Authority contracted with Duany for charrettes in three parishes. City councils in all three communities immediately endorsed the plans that came from those sessions and public response has been very favorable.

“We couldn’t think of a better place to do this than Gentilly,” says Duany. “It provides all the examples of architecture and all the challenges of urban planning we’d expect to find in the whole region. There are rich and poor residents, high and low ground, new and old structures. Everyone in New Orleans will see themselves in some aspect of Gentilly.”

Read more information on New Urbanist planning in Mississippi and Louisiana and the latest news on the Katrina Cottage , which USA Today recognized as one of the few promising developments in post-hurricane housing.

CONTACT: Steve Filmanowicz (312-927-0979, sfilmanowicz@cnu.org); Ben Brown (828-508-5002; benbro@earthlink.net); ; or Irina Woelfle (305-373-8616; irina@iwprgroup.com).