The New Faubourg Lafitte

Tags for this project:

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana. Neighborhood in historic neighborhood

In September of 2006, residents of a public housing project in New Orleans were still trying to cope with the devastation wrought by two hurricanes that ravaged the city a year earlier and the HUD mandate that their homes be demolished. Led by a particularly spirited Resident Council, the residents began to believe that a new and better home was possible and would lead to a better life. 

Five years later, the fi rst homes have fi nally been constructed after a long and arduous effort to align resident will, federal mandate, preservation and design politics, advocacy causes, and best design practices for mixed-income communities. 

When complete, this 27 acre-site, located between the Treme and Tulane-Gravier neighborhoods of New Orleans, will feature over 500 new units of housing ranging in type and confi guration to accommodate a whole range of tenants with a variety of needs. An additional 900 to 1000 units will be constructed on infi ll lots within the adjacent neighborhoods, maintaining the character and image of the architecture in these communities. All tolled, this effort replaces the 900 units of subsidized housing and adds another nearly 600 units for sale for working families and fi rst-time homeowners.

 

Site Design

Residents talked at length about the importance of community. They had fond memories of the streets around the site and their childhood memories of walking down streets lined with houses with large windows and porches. They felt safe because they were among people they knew. Their housing project, on the other hand, was composed of super-blocks that had internal greens and very little street frontage.  This proposed plan extends the street pattern of Treme across the site in order to better link the two. It is conceived as a collection of neighborhood blocks lined with houses that have porches and large windows looking onto the streets. 

The houses have the same relationship to the sidewalk as in Treme: porches up close to the sidewalk with small front gardens. A key feature with the redevelopment plan is Magic Street - a green feature that connects through the entire project. Many young children came to the Charrettes with their parents. They worked together to create their own plans for redevelopment and imagined a place with many things for children to do: places to learn, playgrounds, an art center, a library, and computer classrooms. They drew it as street with parks along it running through the middle of the site from one end to another. 

And so, the site plan that was developed in the charrette proposed a street in the center, in some places a street with a park along one side, in other places just as a park with pedestrian paths. The community immediately named it “Magic Street” in honor of the children who were able to see something so hopeful in the midst of the despair of that time. And today it is being built.

In the charrette, there was concern about safety and providing parking in a secure area. The design creates blocks which have a parking court in the middle. This central parking court is elevated above the street level, close to the elevation of the ground fl oor of the houses. This became an important way to provide accessible entry to houses that FEMA requirements set up to 4 feet off of the ground.

 

Architecture

During the Charrette the design team include 10 architects who developed plans and elevations of various housing types, ranging from single and double cottages and shot-guns to long rows of attached houses and apartments. Large scale elevations of all houses were exhibited on the walls of the gym. Participants were asked to place green dots on the housing types they liked and red dots on the houses they disliked. Single and double houses received the most green dots. 

Also, houses that resembled the traditional houses in Treme received green dots while those that looked out of character, either avant guarde or non-Treme styles, received red dots.

In order to build a neighborhood instead of a projcct, the design uses a variety of different building types. Each block has a combination of types such as single camelback houses, double camelback houses, cottages, double houses that look like large houses and small apartment buildings with an image similar to the grand houses on Esplanade. This results in a streetscape very much like the traditional ones in Treme. It is not only connected to Treme by the restored street grid, but also by the diverse character of the houses that line those streets. 

The building designs are the result of a careful study of the patterns found in Treme. These include the tall windows, narrow front porches, materials such as siding, large cornices with brackets on the front facades and a variety of colors. The designs continue this character, but re-interpreted to respond to 21st Century living and building technologies. The building types are based on traditional types. Therefore, precedents for the facades of each type served as the basis for this interpretation. Each block has a variety of these new interpretations of traditional building types, each of which has a variety of facades. This creates the image of a traditional neighborhood rather than one of a “project”.

Facades facing streets and public open spaces have the most ornament in order to create the public space. The backs have less ornament but the colors, proportions of windows, and the trim details are the same on all facades. Therefore, the parking courts have simple, but still dignified facade.

 

Charter Principles and Canons of Sustainability

4. Development Patterns should not blur or eradicate the edges of the metropolis. 

This project is a redevelopment of an obsolete public housing project. In addition to this, the Homebuilding Plan included the identification of over 900 infi ll sites in the adjacent Treme and Tulane-Gravier neighborhoods, restoring the hurricane damaged fabric.

6. The development and redevelopment of towns and cities should resect historical patterns, precedents, and boundaries.

This design solution actively restores the historic street pattern for this site and complements the character and image of the surrounding neighborhood through its architecture and streetscapes.

7. Cities and towns should bring into proximity a broad spectrum of public and private uses to support a regional economy that benefits people of all incomes.

This project is redeveloping 900 units of subsidized housing while also constructing up to 600 additional houses for working families and fi rst-time homeowners. While it represents an atypically high percentage of deeply subsidized units, the distribution of market rate units has been carefully considered to provide the most sustainable outcome while continuing to bolster and support the incredible sense of community among the returning residents.

13. Within neighborhoods, a broad range of housing types and price levels can bring people of diverse ages, races, and incomes into daily interaction.

This project includes affordable and subsidized housing, a mix of tenures, and a range of building types and sizes to accommodate different needs. Additionally, there is a senior housing building to be erected in the next phase of development, further expanding the development's offering.

16. Concentrations of civic, institutional, and commercial activity should be embedded in neighborhoods and districts.

This design is inserted into an established mixed-use and vibrant neighborhood. Within the redeveloped portion of the project, however, we weer also able to reutilize the retained historic structures to house community support and services like the anticipated Head Start facility to be located along the Magic Street spine.

18. A range of parks, from tot-lots and village greens to ballfields and community gardens, should be distributed within neighborhoods.

Within this tight plan, we were able to retain existing trees on site and use them as the focus for a string of park spaces creating a central green spine. Additionally, provisions for larger and improved play areas are planned for an adjacent vacant property that is associated with a city-wide service facility.

19. A primary task of all urban architecture and landscape design is the physical definition of streets.

This design reestablishes and heals the street facades of Treme through the development of a series of building types that are compatible in scale and character so as to seemlessly integrate new construction, infi ll, and rehab, within the existing neighborhood.

21. The revitalization of urban places depends on safety and security. The design of streets and buildings should reinforce safe environments, but not at the expense of accessibility and openness.

This plan was designed with safety in mind. public areas are clearly defi ned and overlooked by housing. Houses feature large windows and porches that serve as "eyes on the street." We even designed a type of sentinel building type that flanks the lane access to parking to provide added sense of security in these semi-private areas.

22. In the contemporary metropolis, development must adequately accommodate automobiles. It should do so in ways that respect the pedestrian and the form of public space.

Parking areas were accommodated at the interiors of blocks, well screened from the public thoroughfares.

23. Streets and squares should be safe, comfortable and interesting tot he pedestrian.

Blocks within this plan are small, allowing excellent pedestrian access. Additionally, there is major city-wide greenway adjacent to the redevelopment site, and the Magic Street greenway running through the site. Both of these provide for a beautifully landscaped stroll.

24. Architecture and landscape design should grow from local climate, topography, history, and building practice.

We used the architecture and design of the adjacent neighborhood as precedent for not only the building types, but also for the details that have been time tested in New Orleans. Deeply bracketed porches, shuttered windows, cross-ventilation among other techniques will make for comfortable, beautiful, and appropriate residences.

26. All buildings should provide their inhabitants with a clear sense of location, weather, and time.

The large windows that are emblematic of New Orleans architecture were utilized in these building types to provide an appropriate connection of the interiors to the exterior.

27. Preservation and renewal of historic buildings, districts, and landscapes affirm the continuity and evolution of 

urban society.

Some of the historic structures were retained as civic uses and the large trees on-site were retained as features of the public 

open space.

 

Sustainability:

This project is certified under our client's "Green Communities" program which is closely matched with LEED for Homes and LEED for Homes Multifamily Mid-Rise.

 

Lessons Learned

There are number of lessons learned in this project, some have to do with the process, some with the design decisions, and others with the implementation.

For the process, I think it is important to note how crucial it is to have constant, clear, and complete communication with stakeholders, decision-makers, and the development team. A process that continues over this many years will see several changes in staff and personnel. A clear record of decisions and reasons for those decisions was crucial.

From a design standpoint, one of the biggest challenges centered around the changing code requirements related to hurricanes. This dictated the fi nish fl oor heights for our buildings, which made accessibility diffi cult, but not impossible. Fortunately, a clever grading solution for the parking areas and some strategically placed ramps allowed us to still provide visitable and accessible units. Another impact of hurricane requirements dictated the type of windows and shutters that could be used. Through arduous efforts of the entire team and a friendly window manufacturer, this, too was able to be addressed in such a way as to satisfy the local historic design review committee, the design team, and the project budget.

Finally, in regard to the implementation, we have been very lucky to remain involved with the client and the process. 

This has allowed site visits after construction and continued resident interviews. This is crucial in being able to address things like fencing, lighting, and play facilities in subsequent phases, thereby continuing to improve the neighborhood as a whole.

Key Design Professionals
A. Urban Design Associates
Role: Master Planner, Schematic
Architecture, Public Process
B. Michael Willis Architects
Role: Architect of Record
C. LaQuatra Bonci Associates
Role: Landscape Architecture
D. Eskew Dumez Ripple
Role: Architecture
E. SWERHUN
Role: Public Facilitator
F. Schrenk & Peterson
Role: Civil Engineer

Clients
A. Housing Authority of New Orleans
B. The City of New Orleans
C. Providence Community Housing
D. Enterprise Community Partners
E. L + M Development Partners

Transect Zone(s): T4 general.
Status: 26-50% Built
Project or Plan's Scale: Region
Land area (in acres): 28
Total built area (in sq. ft.):
Total project cost (in local currency): 2.25e+07
Retail area (in sq. ft.):
Office area (in sq. ft.):
Industrial area (in sq. ft.):
Number of hotel units:
Number of residential units (include live/work): 1417
Parks & green space (in acres):
Project team designers: Urban Design Associates
Project team developers: N/A

Previous site status:

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: - 2013