Iberville redevelopment quietly gets underway

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With little fanfare or public conversation, the Housing Authority of New Orleans has begun the redevelopment process of the city’s last major pre-Katrina public housing complex­­ — the Iberville development.

Sitting on the fringe of the French Quarter, Iberville has long attracted interest from developers. Earlier this month, the housing authority issued a request to find interested and qualified developers, a precursor to the competitive bidding that will decide who gets the job.  The deadline for submission is Sept. 13.

The solicitation states that the “successful respondent shall demonstrate the ability and experience to implement a large-scale comprehensive mixed-finance, mixed-income and mixed-use revitalization plan.”

In addition to housing, the plan should include commercial space for retail, offices and community facilities, the request states. Such mixed-income redevelopments are in varying stages of completion at the city’s other large public-housing complexes, known collectively as the “Big Four”: B.W. Cooper, C.J. Peete, Lafitte and St. Bernard.

The project will be done in line with federal urban housing policy of replacing dense low-income developments of the post-war period with small-scale neighborhoods, which provide fewer units for the very poor mixed with housing for working and middle-class occupants.

In New Orleans, the redevelopment of the Big Four replaced a pre-storm total of 4,500  occupied public housing units with 3,343 public housing units, as well as 900 market-rate rental units and 900 affordable market-rate homes, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency does not specify the size of the units.

In April, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, speaking to a crowd of visiting urban planners in New Orleans, cited Iberville as a place ideal for the federal housing agency’s newest mixed-income, mixed-use redevelopment program — Choice Neighborhoods.

About 40 developers showed up for a pre-submission conference held Wednesday at HANO’s Touro Street headquarters, said one of those in attendance, HRI Properties CEO and President Pres Kabacoff.

“I am very interested in this project,” Kabacoff said.

In 2001, the same HANO competitive bidding process won the developer the right to redevelop the St. Thomas development into River Garden, a mixed-income development that includes affordable and market rate single-family homes and apartments, in addition to the highly subsidized units traditional to public housing. River Garden also includes retail, notably a Wal-Mart supercenter. Like Iberville, St. Thomas was located within a short walk of a more affluent neighborhood, the Garden District.

Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Executive Director James Perry said that he did not know of  any public outreach done about the redevelopment.

“I’ve heard nothing outside of (closed) meetings,” he said. “Before HUD and HANO start talking about redeveloping Iberville, they should honor commitments to completing the rebuilding of the Big Four redevelopments they’ve already started.”

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