As the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina lapped through their living rooms, the residents of New Orleans’ St. Bernard Housing Project climbed onto their roofs to flash “help” signs to helicopters overhead. Seven years later, nothing of that unhappy scene remains. In place of a stereotypical troubled housing project is a development of 466 townhomes and “mansion” houses on 17 new city blocks reintegrated into the neighborhood’s street grid that would make any New Orleans neighborhood proud. The buildings, steeped in the architecture of the city’s Gentilly area, are built high enough to keep their residents safe from floods like those triggered by Katrina, sturdy enough to thwart hurricane winds, and LEED Silver certified to make them energy efficient.
Columbia Parc was the first of the four large housing projects destroyed by Katrina to be rebuilt. Yet “housing project” is a misnomer. The new buildings are home to low-income residents and those who can afford market-rate rents. And there is no difference in the accommodations between the two.
There were challenges with the project, including several levels of government approval. Approval by the former residents wasn’t easy to come by either. “They were worried about being displaced and being left out,” says John Schrader, a partner with JHP, the project’s land planner.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: New Orleans, LA.