The master plan development of Columbia Parc in New Orleans was a Herculean effort by lead developer Columbia Residential, the Bayou District Foundation, and Housing Authority of New Orleans to bring together 700 homes, schools, retail, commercial, recreation, and a YMCA on a 52-acre site. When the St. Bernard Housing project, part of the acreage, was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the city council decided to demolish rather than fix the 1940s barracks-style structure.

“We wanted to do something that wouldn’t feel so institutional,” says architect John Schrader, principal at JHP. Each building was constructed 4 feet above ground due to the city’s hurricane and flood history. One three-story building houses 111 one- and two-bedroom units; the other consists of duplexes with nine one-story, one- and two-bedroom flats. The $20 million development has been touted for many reasons: quality aesthetics, affordability, amenities, and awareness of context, using design elements borrowed from iconic New Orleans buildings. Community spaces encourage the social interaction that’s essential for a senior cohort--outdoor spaces, a fitness center, theater, communal kitchen, dining, and dance hall, business center, and crafts room. The building leased up within four months and has a wait list. “People definitely respond to good design,” says Columbia president and COO Jim Grauley. The building’s high energy efficiency helped the project come in under budget; Columbia Residential returned the unused funds to the city housing authority. --B.B.

Getting it Done

The Residences became the first LEED-Platinum Senior housing development in Louisiana-- among the first 10 nationwide. Federal funds allowed for high-efficiency HVAC, solar paneled roofs, EnergyStar appliances and light fixtures, ceiling fans, programmable thermostats, and foam insulation on exterior walls.