Land Use

‘Reinventing the Crescent’ reconsidered: mere gentrification or good for us all?

A pedestrian walkway to the linear riverfront park  leaps tracks and levees in Bywater.

Karen Gadbois / The Lens

A pedestrian walkway to the linear riverfront park leaps tracks and levees in Bywater.

The plan to create green space along the riverfront in New Orleans needs a new name. Its supporters have called it Reinventing the Crescent and describe the project as being “first and foremost about connection — reconnecting our city and our communities to our riverfront.” [their emphasis]

According to the project’s website, “New Orleans is emerging from the shadows of Katrina as a burgeoning entrepreneurial community… Reinventing the Crescent harnesses the creative power of design to express what this ‘new New Orleans’ is all about.”

So, maybe it should be called Reinvesting the Crescent?

The recovery of New Orleans is of national importance. That’s why I helped Jonathan Demme make his documentary film, “I’m Carolyn Parker,” (one of what we hope are five features on the subject of New Orleans recovery), and why I wrote the book “The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back.”

The people we talked to and have become friends with over the past eight years don’t tend to talk about burgeoning entrepreneurial communities. They’re more interested in what to do about junkies moving into abandoned buildings — and why calling the police only seems to make things worse. They’re less concerned about “creative power” than decent health care and schools. And while they might like to connect with the river, their first priority is to make sure it doesn’t end up back in their living rooms.

Reinventing the Crescent isn’t about the people we met in Gentilly, St. Bernard Parish, the Upper and Lower Ninth wards. Quoting again from the official website, the aim is to create a “new economy” based on a new “creative class … of dynamic workers such as engineers, architects, musicians, educators, scientists and artist ….” That’s what the six miles of parks and riverfront amenities are designed to attract — though over 90 percent of the almost $300 million cost will fall on the average, apparently non-creative, tax-payer. This is, we’re assured, “a prudent, acceptable and essential public investment.”

Maybe it should be called Reinventing the Creative Class?

Why use limited public money to build “architectural icons” along the river? Because it will make the city a “more desirable place [where] profit-seeking individuals will naturally seek new opportunities….” And because it’s projected to create some 24,000 new jobs. The catch is that fewer than 900 of these will be for engineers, architects, etc. The remaining 23,000 will be in the field of tourism. That sounds suspiciously like the old New Orleans: a city of service jobs paying just enough to cover the rent but not enough to ever get ahead. One Gentilly resident described that economic model to us as the Happy Plantation.

What’s being called Reinventing the Crescent in New Orleans is known as the Inner Harbor project in Baltimore, Riverfront Park in Passaic, N.J., the Renaissance Center and International Riverfront in Detroit, Waterfront Greening in Manhattan. In each case, an industrial waterfront, abandoned as American manufacturing has faded, gets reinvented as a way of drawing the creative class back into the central city.

Maybe it should be called Remagnetizing the Crescent?

Baltimore’s one of the earliest examples, providing a chance to see how the model plays out. From the late Sixties through the Seventies, public money paid for a rebuilt Inner Harbor that was soon attracting millions of visitors. Tax breaks encouraged private developers to build in the area, including condominiums for the creative class. (Reinventing the Crescent features two new neighborhoods, “like two bookends” — one at the old power plant just upriver from the Convention Center, the other the former Department of Defense facility along the Industrial Canal in Bywater.)

Like New Orleans and many other cities, Baltimore had begun losing population in the Sixties; the Inner Harbor was advertised as a way to stop that. It didn’t. In the two decades after the Inner Harbor was completed, in 1965, Baltimore’s population dropped by nearly one fifth, with continuing losses right through the 2010 census — even as crime and unemployment rose. The city ended up with nearly 40 percent of its families living in poverty and 40,000 abandoned homes (compared to about 48,000 in New Orleans today). The tourist-based economy helped increase the gap between rich and poor, between entrepreneur and dishwasher. As one study of the Inner Harbor puts it, “Baltimore is today two cities, separate and unequal, not in spite of its extravagant and interventionist redevelopment program, but because of it.” [their emphasis]

I called my book “The Fight for Home” because New Orleanians kept saying that was the central issue: not just returning but making a home in the broadest sense. The fight was over what the new New Orleans would look like and who it would be for. That’s why so many people rejected the proposal by urban planners working with Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission  to green dot certain parts of the city as unsuitable for immediate resettlement: because when you looked at a map, it was the low-lying neighborhoods that were slated to be mothballed, most — but not all of them — poor and black. The city’s higher ground would be targeted for government investment and accelerated recovery.

Reinventing the Crescent (which enjoyed Nagin’s endorsement) aligns with that approach: taking Community Development Block grants from their intended application in low-income neighborhoods and instead pouring them into what Tulane geographer and author Richard Campanella calls ” ‘the white teapot’ … a relatively wealthy and well-educated majority area” along the river.

Maybe the project should be called Regilding the Teapot?

New Orleans has made a remarkable recovery from a major disaster. The huge influx of federal dollars worked like stimulus money to shield it from the hard times that came with the 2007 market crash and global recession. The recovery also attracted an influx of generally young and well-educated transplants, eager to help the city rebuild. So while the nation lost over 4 percent of its jobs between the end of 2007 and the end of 2011, New Orleans held about even.

Eight years after the floods, the effects of that stimulus have just about ended, and the city again faces the national problem: how to re-vitalize the economy. Over the past half century, urban center after urban center has looked to the tourist potential of its waterfront for salvation. By now it’s clear that reconnecting “our” communities to “our” riverfront can only succeed if it benefits the majority of the citizens.

People haven’t rebuilt their homes, their blocks, their neighborhoods to reinvent the Happy Plantation. The tough questions remain. How does the city (and the country) create jobs that offer a creative future for all? How can we look beyond the crescent to the whole?

Daniel Wolff’s “The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back” is out in paperback this month.

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  • Dylan Barr

    Great article!

  • Ted Swingle

    Happy Plantation? Questions remain? Huh?

    What’s your point? I can’t even tell. Gentrification bad?

    I moved here a couple years ago from Baltimore where I lived for over 30 years. The Inner Harbor was a huge success and paved the way for the revitalization of much of the City. Yes, there are still poor people there killing each other, as you clearly know from watching The Wire on HBO but there always have been and always will be.

    These large scale public-private redevelopments are necessary to breathe life into once dying cities. I understand that there have been some projects that have failed to get off the ground and others that were terrible ideas to begin with (highway along the river) but that’s no excuse for complacency. The window of opportunity for NOLA to help improve the quality of life of its residents will not last forever.

    On the upriver end of the map, hopefully, the WTC RFP isn’t such a joke that nothing will come of it. Sell it or tear it down but there’s nothing like a long-vacant skyscraper to raise all kinds of red flags. Also, I am not certain that waterfront redevelopment here in NOLA has much to do with gentrification of the actual waterfront area or the majority of its adjoining neighborhoods. Do you know anyone who lives on the water? We are talking about Mardi Gras World, a concrete plant, scores of obsolete, vacant industrial buildings, hotels, train tracks, etc……not displacing poor people. What’s sad is that the only time I actually see the River here is when I drive over the CCC or I’m at the Fly or I’m in the Quarter being subjected to piercingly loud organ mounted on top of a tourist boat.

    From my perspective, there are lots of opportunities here for people in both the public and private sector to create value and improve the quality of life for everybody in New Orleans. Happy Plantation? Please stand aside. Thanks!

  • KurtB

    The author wants the city to be a total dump as long as nobody’s feelings are hurt. Let’s cater to the grievance class instead of encouraging investment, renovations, & entrepreneurs. Everyone equally poor and living in squalor as long as we are all “equal.” Good idea!!

  • Im Under The Bus

    Mr. Swingle:

    “I moved here a couple years ago from Baltimore”.

    It shows. Give it about 10 to 15 more years. Unless you are part of the swindle, it takes a while to see through the smoke screen created by powerful real estate moguls and politicians that most definitely have carved up New Orleans into Plantations. And that’s only if you look. Hint: Most look like trapezoids.

    The Levee failure disaster was an opportunity to push through initiatives that real estate owners and developers had been drooling over for years. What was not possible when the city was populated became possible when it was emptied out after the flood of 2005. The middle class was gutted and offered no opportunity to return. It was an erasure of people- and history – and sanctioned at all levels of government.

    The people that created the culture that you – perhaps – came to New Orleans to explore and capitalize on, have consistently been marginalized and side-lined when it comes to planning processes. Exclusion ranging from displacement from their City [the most extreme] to being asked to provide “input” on already predetermined development plans [the most insulting].

    I do not disagree that there are opportunities to improve quality of life for all, but improvements must be equitable. In context with New Orleans tradition how do you suggest we achieve that?

  • Im Under The Bus

    “The author wants the city to be a total dump”. That statement says far more about you than the author.

  • Want to re-invent the Crescent?

    How about taking a close look at some of the NUMBERS tourism talks about.

    Lakeside Shopping Center has 10 million visitors
    (the $13B mentioned at URL below is still up for discussion and needs more clarification)

    What can the French Gutter, Barf n Barker St (Bourbon St.) and the French Trinket Market say?

    That is, New Orleans Tourism, with Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Saints, French Quarter Fest and so on, is still less than Lakeside Shopping Center (that has no festivals, NFL or NBA pro teams, casinos or bars) has only 9 million visitors.

    Lakeside Shopping Center brings in 10 million visitors with no out-of-state advertising versus NOLA tourism at 9 million? And by the way, Lakeside Shopping Center doesn’t have 24/7 alcohol, casinos, and doesn’t need an entire police station, additional state police or national guard, to keep the peace. And most of the New Orleans tourism economic numbers are big time hyped and almost impossible verify. Lastly, Jefferson Parish’s Lakeside Shopping Center doesn’t even have the national media hyping New Orleans either.

  • Should it be really the “Fight for Home” or the “Fight for JOBS”?

    What good are HOMES that are built in a place that has NO JOBS?

    WWL – Action Report: Habitat’s 500th home

  • Social Justice Activists should be fighting to eliminate things that “PROMOTE IRRESPONSIBILITY”, like 24/7 alcohol, lottery, video poker, casinos, gambling as they have only produced jobs where they can’t even afford to pay $2 dollars (or $65/month) for the Algiers ferry.

    It’s truly amazing how hypocritical (and short-sighted) these social justice activists are. They talk about dysfunctional families, poverty, addictions and so on, but they have no idea how this all got started. Then, they pat themselves on the back for fighting for some government benefit, house or piece of land so they can live in a still high crime and high poverty neighborhood with still, NO JOBS. And then they complain about the cycle of poverty? Wait, they, the social justice activists just put them in a place with NO JOBS.

  • ardecila

    These are apples and oranges. The average visitor to Lakeside Mall does not spend half the amount of money that a tourist in New Orleans does. A tourist can easily spend over $1000 on lodging, food, entertainment, transportation, and shopping, whereas a visitor to Lakeside is probably spending less than $100 on average. Even if Lakeside has more raw visitors, New Orleans tourism has a vastly greater economic impact.

  • Louisiana Tourism Forecast 2009-2013
    Page 12, Figure 9.

    From the bar chart on Figure 9:
    1. VFR = VISITING FRIENDS and RELATIVES at around 30-35%
    2. Entertainment and Sightseeing is around 20%
    3. Convention and Conference is around 10%

    Is “VFR” very high cause Louisiana doesn’t have good jobs so these “tourists” left Louisiana and New Orleans? Yes.
    Hence, VFR is probably NOT spending like a Tourist cause they already have what they need.

    Second, most of the money spent by a tourist is in the hotel and airplane which are mainly owned by companies outside Louisiana anyway.

    Now you say they spend more than visitors to Lakeside Shopping Center.

    I ask, “WHERE and What is it spent on?”
    Is it the French Gutter, or Barf and Barker St (Bourbon St.)?
    If so, what did they buy?
    And can you give a few examples of a popular sales that has made an overall “positive” impact to New Orleans such that the workers in the French Gutter who are also riders of the Algiers Ferry don’t complain about paying a tiny fee of $2 dollars per day to ride the ferry?

    So when hearing about 9 million New Orleans tourists, I don’t see many of the 9 million visitors spending on hotels and trinkets in the French Gutter, but more VFR, Visiting Friends and Relatives.

  • Edward Ericson Jr

    in Baltimore, Mr. Swingle was in commercial real estate marketing.

  • Im Under The Bus

    It sounds like Mr. Swingle is now in real estate marketing in New Orleans which would explain a lot.

  • Im Under The Bus

    Pres Kabacoff would not disagree with you Ah Contraire.

    In this TP article –
    – Iberville housing complex area: the next Lakeside Shopping Center? -Katy Reckdahl wrote:

    “After co-chairing the housing task force for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s transition team, he – {Kabacoff} – wrote an sprawling essay called about how New Orleans is uniquely positioned to revive its historic neighborhoods.”

    “A Return to Splendor” for you newbies out there, is a document that some have called revisionist and offensive. You can still browse the short paper circulated by Kabacoff as an attachment on this blog post:

    Here’s a quote from the the New Orleans Tribune’s publisher’s notes – August 2012:

    “The “return to splendor” was put in place on the heels of Katrina. It began with the demolition of the housing developments. Who can forget Congressman Richard Baker’s gleeful announcement that went like this: “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it but God did.”
    The big four were torn down and rebuilt almost overnight in a drive cloaked in high sounding phrases like “deconcentration of poverty” and “eradication of crime.” Contrary to the highly-touted goals of demolition, poverty has merely been moved from one section of the city to another. Meanwhile, homelessness, crime and violence have in fact increased, and poor people-the vast majority of those who resided in the housing developments before Katrina have not been able to return.”

    Is this style of planning participatory? Is is inclusive?
    Obviously a rhetorical question.

  • Im Under The Bus wrote: “Is this style of planning participatory? Is it inclusive?”

    Is Home Depot or COSTCO inclusive? In order to work there you have to READ and WRITE. And by the way, you also have to SHOW UP FOR WORK and ON TIME, not wasted from the night before with the state’s 24/7 alcohol policy.

    When you say “inclusive” are you saying the poor? If so,the poor don’t even want to work with Section 8 and EBT, so who else are you talking about?

    The Bible says “Feed the poor”.
    It does not say “Feed the addiction” with free housing and free food and no responsibility.

    The Bible says, “Heal the sick”.
    It does not say, “Make the addicted, more addicted and more irresponsible” with free housing and free food and in walking distance to Bark and Barfer St (Bourbon St.)

  • > “the vast majority of those who resided in the housing developments before Katrina have not been able to return.”

    AND what are those who are outside Louisiana doing for 8 years? Probably a LOT BETTER then ever in their life and a lot better than the ones they left behind in last place, high crime and high poverty NOLA.

    Virtually everyone, poor, sick, rich and middle class are doing a LOT better moving away from Louisiana. To say they “CAN’T” return is totally against the facts.

    Even the Fortune 500 companies and well known old companies have left Louisiana so why shouldn’t the poor in those housing project remain away?

  • One more thing.

    It’s been EIGHT (8) YEARS.

    Let’s completely drop the Section 8, EBT and so on as the POOR who left after Hurricane Katrina are NOT COMING BACK to live with the POOR in NOLA.

    After EIGHT (8) YEARS do you not think those POOR have built FRIENDSHIPS, JOBS, HOUSES outside of Louisiana by now?

    In all likelihood, they have a BOYFRIEND, GIRLFRIEND, or are MARRIED with KIDS by now. With those kids are already in some school OUTSIDE of Louisiana.

    If you want “inclusive” of the poor, you will only attract the poor from those who were never from Louisiana. But then again, there are some who can see that in the panhandlers and homeless who are at every intersection in NOLA.

    That 500th Habitat for Humanity house only perpetuates the cycle of poverty as it’s a nice house in a city with NO JOBS and HIGH CRIME and the Big Easy culture of ENABLEMENT.

  • Im Under The Bus

    So M. Opposite…
    Just so anyone reading this page is clear. You are saying that the many ppl who have tried to return – or have returned – since the 2005 flood aren’t.
    You are saying that only the poor – (with your laundry list of judgements) – were displaced? Not middle class New Orleanians like teachers and doctors?
    You are saying that the only barrier to entry into the mainstream economy like Costco is the inability to be sober? Minor criminal charges like drug offenses, past unemployment history, poor credit scores, etc have nothing to do with that right?
    Just checking.
    And, Please refer to the corroborating data that supports your assertions.

  • The best chance NOLA had was before Aug 2007, no more than 2 years after Hurricane Katrina. At the 2 year mark, those Upper, Middle and Lower class have “settled” into a far better life, including those with minor criminal charges, and so.

    After 2 years, do you not think every one of them, Upper, Middle, and Lower, with or without criminal history have made a new life with NEW people, new job, new school, new friends and so on.

    The Poor:
    What incentive to they have to return? If you ever listen to blacks “visiting” NOLA, you will hear that all the black males they every grew up are in jail or dead. Also why should NOLA, having the highest poverty rate in America want more poor to return?

    The Middle Class:
    Are there any jobs for the middle class in NOLA that can pay the much higher cost of living now? The rent is higher in NOLA than Dallas. And the insurance and taxes are show stoppers!

    The Upper Class:
    Again, are there jobs for the upper class? Have there really been jobs for the upper class? And how many small, mid and large companies have moved out? And again, the insurance and taxes are also show stoppers!

  • > “You are saying that the only barrier to entry into the mainstream economy like Costco is the inability to be sober?”

    STEP 1. SHOW UP FOR WORK and ON TIME and not half wasted from last night. So that’s the FIRST barrier to entry to a job at like Costco.

    STEP 2: See Step 1 as most of NOLA has never got past Step 1.

    You ask any owner or manager in the French Gutter or restaurant in NOLA, many service workers DO NOT EVEN SHOW UP FOR WORK and many don’t even call in. (Yet they do know how to claim unemployment, Section 8 and EBT.)

    If it’s a company outside of NOLA that sets up shop within NOLA, they notice when employees don’t show up for work right away in NOLA and they don’t put up with that crap one bit.

  • One of the things I notice is that many “Proud to call New Orleans Home” types are trying to get “people” to come back. This is the WRONG strategy and has never worked for the last 40 years.

    What you need to do is ATTRACT companies with GOOD JOBS with the CURRENT LOCAL people WHO SHOULD at LEAST SHOW UP to WORK and SHOW UP ON TIME and not half hung over from last night or on drugs.

    Companies are not going to setup shop in NOLA and then WAIT for the better folks to move to New Orleans.

    The current locals need not only skills, but far far different WORK ETHIC. In other words, DROP the Big Easy culture as that is a deal killer for companies outside of Louisiana and even the remaining few who are still in Louisiana.

  • You want corroborating data, OK here it is.

    Schwegmann’s is gone.
    Maison Blanche is gone.
    D H Holmes is gone.
    Krauss is gone.
    Katz and Besthoff (K+B) is gone.
    Marks-Isaacs is gone.
    Kreeger’s is gone.
    And the regionals….
    All the F W Woolworth’s are gone, they seemed to have had a distinct New Orleans style.
    McCrory’s is gone.
    S H Kress is gone.
    Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse gone.

    Add to that
    Hibernia Bank gone(bought out)
    Whitney Bank merged out but really gone.
    Chevron gone / moved.
    Freeport McMoRan gone.
    C’s Pharmacy bought out and gone.
    Avondale shipyards gone.
    Smoothie King (bought out, but still here with gov incentives)
    Michoud Assembly Facility gone.
    Stewart Enterprises merged with Houston firm, gone.
    Entergy cutting back hundred of New Orleans workers.
    McDermott International New Olreans HQ gone.
    McDermott Morgan City Fabrication Yard gone.

    There are a lot more, check City Business

  • Joanne Hilton

    I think you’d win that bet. I just listened to a little of an interview with him, and he says New Orleeens -a dead give-away! People who come here with a certain mind-set tend to seek out people who validate that mind-set. I have never known anyone to get ahead by worrying that someone else has more than they do. BB King said it best: I especially .like the verse about the Queen of England.

  • Joanne Hilton

    Well guess what. I’m not in real estate marketing, although through hard work and sacrifice I do own a little real estate. I’m from the 9th Ward, and nothing makes me happier than to see the opening-up and redevelopment of the river, because it is golng to have tremendous positive effects on all of the upper 9th ward. Renovation is already starting to creep across St. Claude, from Bywater, and perhaps that will abate the “killing fields” over there. As far as big developers developing big projects, well, ummm, that’s what big developers do. Do I wish I was one? I wish I was that smart, but since I’m not I am so very glad that they ARE. Thank you, Pres Kabacoff, thank you Joe Canizarro, thank you Sean Cummings, and whoever else is using their talents, time and treasure to make my city better. Newsflash: all three of them are locals.
    Remember when the folks in the lower 9th ward said there was a conspiracy to take their land away from them after the storm? Anybody been down there lately? It has green-dotted itself! Even Brad Pitt and all of Hollywood can’t repopulate it.

  • Joanne Hilton

    You obviously have NO idea how many small businesses operated by locals participate in the tourism economy. It’s an extremely important facet of our economy.

  • Joanne Hilton

    Not to mention tourism is OPM – “other people’s money” which the city will only get if they have some reason to come to town (and it won’t be Lakeside Shopping Center!). It’s money from other cities, states, countries.

  • Oh yes I do understand small business. The small businesses are STRUGGLING financially and it’s becoming very difficult with crime, insurance and so on. (And that is not to mention that the local BIG and Medium companies that have left Louisiana which means there are no local good customers for the small businesses to sell products or services to.)

    Second of all, if a local small business depends upon tourism, it relies a lot on tourists which means there are very few repeat customers. This means there is a very high cost of ADVERTISING to continually get new customers/tourists. However, if you have lots of repeat customers, you do NOT have to advertise as much, actually no where near as much as a tourism based business.

    When you look at that Louisiana 2009-2013 Tourism Forecast report again and it becomes more and more clear. When you hear large numbers like 9 MILLIONS visitors, only 10-15% are tourists, 5-10% are conventioneers and 30-35% are just visiting friends and relatives (VFR). There are 10-15% with other pleasures, which could mean anything. Why the report didn’t go into detail on Figure 9, Page 12 (Page 13 on Adobe Reader), I don’t know.

    This report needs to be looked at harder and more research from other outside sources should be found. With only 20-30% of the 9 million visitors really being tourists of the traditional sense being reported on the news, businesses and residents should really think if tourism isn’t as big as it’s being reported to be.

    When you hear 49 million at Disney World Orlando, do you think 35% are just visiting Friends and Relatives? How about Las Vegas at 40 million? Do you really think 35% of the visitors going to Las Vegas are visiting friends or relatives?

    If 9 million visitors are really 3 million tourists, then that’s a huge difference! Probably why those small local NOLA business are struggling. They hear and think 9 MILLION when in reality it’s really 3 million!!!

    Big Difference.

  • M Styborski

    Sean Cummings and his daddy have been working this scam since 2003 when Nagin gave Sean the keys to the city. Nothing sweeter than having mayoral approval to use public funds to increase your own personal wealth. I wonder if Sean will send Ray-Ray’s kickbacks to The Big House or to Mrs Ray-Ray…

  • M Styborski

    And let’s not forget that the Cummings Master Plan relies on a steady stream of out-of-state firms to do the thinking and make the big money. Yes, he’ll hire some locals for the manual labor, but those jobs will be gone on opening day and rake in pennies compared to the high-dollar fees the carpetbaggers pull in.

  • Does this La Tourism Forecast and report make sense? When you have a population that has been decreasing for the last 40 years, you are going have lots of “visitors” who are visiting “friends and relatives”. Add in Hurricane Katrina and it makes even more sense as 130,000 didn’t come back but do have some relatives and friends still in NOLA to visit every so often. So that makes sense to me, does it make sense for you?

    I really think The Lens, as well as other other media outlets and blogs, like Gambit and so on, should investigate these tourism numbers as this is important to the thinking that New Orleans is a tourism based industry when certain numbers flying around should be thoroughly questioned.

  • Just looking at all those medium and big companies leaving the last couple of years, you have ask yourself,

    “Is there really a BRAIN GAIN”?

    Many of those companies had quite a few professionals and now they are GONE. I also hear there are more publicly listed companies in Lafayette than New Orleans with the buyout of Stewart Enterprises by a Texas company

    Next to GE and the so called 300 computer jobs there was this thing called the Receivables Exchanges that in the formerly called Chevron building and they have there new name up there. Now the Receivable Exchange has changed out CEO’s and had a massive cutback. All the other BRAIN GAINS are social entrepreneurs who are funded by some foundation, grant or some government program. The rest are start ups that can barely make ends meet or still haven’t gotten their first paying customer.

  • Hank Cherry

    Having grown up in Baltimore, and lived in New Orleans, and watched shows on tv about them by the same person, I think the comparison fits. The Inner Harbor in Baltimore was a great concept. It took many years to develop. At the time of its inception in the early 70s the need was dramatic. Baltimore was dying, the city was violent, the harbor a mess. In the time it took to raise funds and develop another excellent project came into being- the dollar house project. It was this project that kept the development of Baltimore’s inner harbor from fully expanding into the neighborhoods surrounding the area. And that was a good idea. While the Inner Harbor has its detractors, one of the main problems in Baltimore now is that businesses are treated better and with more respect than people. There is no dollar house program- the program was co-sponsored by Baltimore City and HUD. It offered houses that the city had bought, all blighted, to the buyer for a dollar as long as they signed a commitment to rehab the house and live in it. Those last regulations kept house flippers from coming in and making outlandishly priced houses in neighborhoods that could not sustain them. Today, Baltimore’s worst neighborhoods sit away from the harbor, and it’s these neighborhoods that could best use a community building project like the dollar house program. New Orleans could also benefit from a program like this. The Inner Harbor became a tourist driven space in a town not known for having a tourist driven economy. It, in and of itself, is not the line that racial and economic unjusts are divided upon.

  • Joanne Hilton

    Those reports are a JOKE.
    I agree with you about the numbers – you know the old saying, figures lie and liars figure! I have never believed the numbers, especially since people at the NOCVB are the ones that promulgate them, and they are almost all (except for Mark Romig) universally slimy and self-serving. And don’t believe Orlando and Las Vegas either. Everybody lies. Nevertheless, I, and many others like me, still have been able to make a decent living operating a small business that’s tourism oriented, for 33 years. starting from nothing. I have a deep appreciation for an industry that allows people like me to get a foot-hold, and I can tell you from experience that it is an industry that almost exclusively promotes from within.

  • Joanne Hilton

    The media is not smart enough to ask the right questions, or to understand how to interpret the answers. There is a totally accurate way to get a REAL (not phony self-reported by the hotels) number on actual hotel occupancy. I won’t go into it here , but if anyone out there in media land is REALLY interested in accurate tourism reporting I’ll be happy to talk to you about it. It is a number you can get from the city, and/or the state depts of revenue. I have never understood why the media just accepts anything that comes in on a ;press release.

  • Randi Kaufman

    Evidence doesn’t support Florida’s creative class theory. No way this project is primarily about connecting citizens to riverfront. it’s about bringing more tourists into a residential neighborhood and real estate. Developers have been aggressively salivating over this project, and Nagin put Sean Cummings, creator of plan and developer with property along riverfront, in charge. Developers still pushing for increasing high limits for buildings along the river in Marigny and Bywater. I live down by new riverfront park and will enjoy it when it’s open, but i don’t believe it’s about the people or what most citizens really need.

    2nd Quarter 2008 / 3rd Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

    Currently, there are over 140 metro area hotels and motels in operation with over 31,000 rooms in inventory. In Orleans Parish there are 21,000 rooms in inventory and pre-Katrina there were 25,000 rooms. Also prior to Katrina, in the Greater New Orleans Area, there were 265 hotels with an inventory of 38,338.
    The Hyatt Regency New Orleans will re-open in 2009 after an extensive renovation.
    On June 4, 2008, the Hilton Hotels Corporation announced plans to redevelop the former Fairmont New Orleans, also known as “The Roosevelt,” as part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection. Completion and opening is scheduled for late spring of 2009.


    Does New Orleans need more hotel rooms? – Jan 10, 2012

    So I read about 35,000 room total in the ENTIRE Greater New Orleans Metro area.

  • So using the below numbers for total hotel room in Greater New Orleans area and the average length of stay I get:

    365 days/year TIMES 35,000 rooms = 12.7 million hotel room day/night sales

    Using an Average Length of Stay of 3.6 days per visitor times 9 million visitors, I get:

    3.6 days x 9 million visitors = 32.4 million hotel room day/night sales needed.

    So the number that can be easily verified is the actual total hotel rooms in the metro area, which is 35,000 by just counting the number of hotels and rooms they each have. Then total room stays sales per year is just multiplied by 365 days per year.

    12.7M / 32.4M = 39%

    That would be a 61% LESS than advertised.

    If one takes into account bed and breakfasts there are like 150 and they can possibly have more than 10 room max, so 150 x 10 = 1500.
    So bed and breakfasts are numerically insignificant when compared to 35,000 rooms in the metro area.

  • Joanne Hilton

    Once again, we are using THEIR unaudited numbers. That’s not how you get actual occupancy.f

  • Joanne Hilton

    Once again, NO.

  • One of the things I am seeing is a HUGE difference between a “Visitor” and a “Tourist” as it seems a significant number of “visitors” are just visiting friends and relatives (VFR), not actually SPENDING $100/day like they “say” a tourist is spending.

  • I think the various business associations of New Orleans and Jefferson should really dig deep into these tourism number in their future meetings.

    Furthermore, the IG and BGR and TheLens really need to look at these number and UNAUDITED hotel room numbers and shine some light on those hotel occupancy numbers.

    Also, looking at the typical “tourist”, what is real example of the economic impact of the French Gutter and Barf and Barker St (Bourbon St.) and compare that to say Lakeside Shopping Center or say Elmwood?

    The various New Orleans business associations should really investigate the crown jewels of New Orleans, the French Gutter, as that place sets the example for “tourists” to New Orleans and whether on not to do future business in New Orleans. And this is not to mention all those TAX dollars the businesses in New Orleans pay for marketing New Orleans to America in regards to tourism.

    As far as I am concerned, the business groups and associations of the GNO area really need to start auditing the New Orleans Tourism and Convention groups as they are using plenty of the areas tax dollars and what do they, the City and the crown jewels, the French Gutter, have to show for it?

  • Joanne Hilton

    This is the way you can get actual, audited occupancy numbers: Every month, every hotel with more than 10 rooms (over 99% of licensed properties) has to submit a tax form, to both the city and the state. This form must state 1) month and year that is being reported; 2)number of rooms the property is licensed for, and 3)actual number of room nights sold for that month. This is so the hotel can remit the occupancy tax collected from guests – in our case it is $1.00 per room, per night. Larger hotels have a graduated scale, depending on number of rooms. There you have it – number of days per month multiplied by number of rooms actually licensed by the cityfor that particular property, divided by number of room nights sold for that month equals actual occupancy. (This is over and above the hotel/motel sales tax of 13% collected on nightly room rate, which is reported on an additional form.) Example: September (30 days) hotel licensed for 100 rooms (that would be 3,000 room nights that month) actually sells 600 room nights (as verified by the per night tax remitted) andwould therefore
    have a 20% occupancy rate. This is the most exact occupancy rate report that could be generated. Personally, I don’t know why they don’t do it.

  • How do you determine the “number” of guests in a room? Can that be determined from any hotel taxes paid?

    Many large hotels have two double/queen sized beds or something larger. Would that make a significant difference in the visitor to occupancy statistics? And how many rooms in a large hotel are “under maintenance” and therefore lowers the total rooms available at any one time? Couldn’t an entire wing of a hotel floor be “under maintenance or renovation”?

  • 2yearsinNO

    Cool. So what. Proof of the fact you are both guilty of the same “people who come here with a certain mind-set tend to seek out people who validate that mind-set” in the context of this article/website comes from the fact that neither you are refuting the substance of his arguments, but instead trying to go around what are some very strong arguments and making an ad-hominem attack on where he’s from. A little lesson from hip-hop guys and gals, “it ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.”

    Furthermore, have you spent any time with this “victim class?” A class whose existence and makeup has just been determined by you. If you were to spend time with these people would you even know the challenges and struggles they have faced in their lives?

    Have you been here your whole life? If you have, are you perhaps a self-conscious perpetrator of injustices you willfully neglect to see or even acknowledge? In which case the only way to clear your head or guilt is to further attribute negative characteristics to this “victim class” so that their oppression or systemic immobility is justified?

    Have you ever heard of membership rights, economic inequality, institutionalized racism, mass incarceration, underserved populations, or any of the jargon that would prove that at least your eyes have ever been open to the inequalities that exist in this city? Or country? Because perhaps if you have, then this article would make a little more sense to you. I could see how if you have not it would just make you think that someone has some sort of class/race-baiting agenda to create a socialist government under a Muslim leader.

  • Joanne Hilton

    Can’t say how to accurately count number of people in a room, but my computation only speaks to the hotel occupancy percent. Could be one person, could be ten – either way, one room is tied up for one night. Yes, sometimes rooms are “out of commission” but believe me, in most circumstances it happens at a time when the room wouldn’t have been full anyway (summers) and the room is “down” for a very short period of time, and generally floor-by-floor.
    As you have noted, those visitor numbers are terribly inflated, and my only concern is how many hotel rooms are being filled at any time!

  • Joanne Hilton

    Heard it, seen it, lived it, moved past it.

  • NolaMan

    Lived it my whole life, in the same city, same neighborhood, same street, same everything. I’ve heard the bitching, the excuses, the whining. It’s a victimhood mentality. It’s a cancer. It tells the poor, especially the black poor but also many many whites, that they can’t make it bc of (pick your poison): racism, the police, the govt, the “plantation”, the jailers, capitalism, BP, etc.. It’s all the same…excuses not to excel, educate yourself, or work hard, Show me 100 people that work hard, don’t whine, & educate themselves & I’ll show you at least 95 very successful people. Now show me 100 people who whine, complain, don’t work hard, sit on their porch or on the corner all day & I’ll show you 100 people that never get ahead & stay poor & ignorant. Fact. Open your eyes. The most ignorant are people like this author who haven’t lived this their whole lives. Their heart is bigger than their brain. They pop in for a few yrs & see “oppression” instead of self-destruction. Such a joke. NEW ORLEEEEEEEEEEENS. The guy can’t even pronounce the name of the city but he’s an expert!!

  • jason

    The really sad part of the post Katrina story is how the current NOLA Mayor, Mitchell Landrieu has turned his back to real economic development, opting instead for new publicly subsidized big box retail (WalMart and Costco). He refuses to acknowledge any of the new development around the biomedical district and the opportunity it has. Instead he is investing millions in a hospital in New Orleans East and now wants to build a new urban development around it.

    It must be the water we drink…

  • Nolaesque

    To me, Wolff’s piece is not very thoughtful. Anyone who has actually
    been to the tourist trap called Inner Harbor and is familiar with
    Cordish, the company that made it all so cheesy (like they’ve also done
    in other cities), can see very simply that a Marigny/Bywater riverfront
    park is nothing and will be nothing like what is in Baltimore. The
    bridge alone, which is pictured, makes that clear. The park, whenever
    it gets done, will likely be little more than what Algiers Point has, a
    simple slab to use for walking or biking. That and an amphitheatre
    hardly makes for the tempest in a teapot that Wolff
    espouses and has been far too commonplace among recent slippery slope overreactors. The real issue that no one has tackled is why the park has taken so long and how much money has been wasted. C’mon, Lens, you’re better than this piece. Cover the actual issue here.

  • scarshapedstar

    As a student living in the Bywater, I’m really looking forward to a car-free bike path to exercise on. Uptown has the Fly, Mid-City has City Park, and we have a long trip in either direction.

  • scarshapedstar

    “free housing and free food and in walking distance to Bark and Barfer St (Bourbon St.)”

    Free housing and free food in the Quarter? Do you actually live here? You sound like a Baptist from Shreveport.

  • scarshapedstar

    News flash: having lived in Atlanta and New Orleans, when places ban alcohol sales after midnight, you go buy a bunch of beer at 11:50. You can’t trick people into following the theocratic lifestyle you want to inflict upon them. Maybe you’d be happier in Natchitoches or Mobile.

  • NEWSFLASH: New Orleans has the highest car insurance in America.
    If people really needed to have a beer and are willing to buy a bunch of beer 10 minutes before midnight, they are not already wasted to drive to the store before midnight.

    In New Orleans, they are wasted 24/7.

  • The free housing and food is underneath the I-10 on Calliope St and Oretha Castle Blvd.

    According to Google Maps

    It’s only 1.3 miles from Calliope and Oretha Castle Blvd to 100 Bourbon St. ….about a 20 minute walk for the homeless who do nothing all day, anyway.

  • Hard to imagine anyone calling themselves a medical student if they make quick assumptions which apparently are wrong in geography and wrong in logic.

  • scarshapedstar

    Hard to imagine an actual native spouting the same “PUT DOWN THE BOTTLE AND PICK UP THE BIBLE!” crap that the street preachers from Kansas and Texas do when they come down and attempt to ruin Mardi Gras every year. We’ve heard it all before.

  • scarshapedstar

    What do you mean “they”? I thought you were totally born and raised here…

  • scarshapedstar

    Okay, and the zoo is an hour walk for the idle homeless, better keep your kids away.

    You really think that bums are looking to walk half an hour for the privilege of buying watered-down $15 tourist trap daiquiris? You don’t think they’d rather buy a $2.00 King Cobra from the corner store? Christ, you live in a fantasy world.

  • You say you heard it all before. Well guess what? There’s something new in town.

    Notice the silence from the 2 question asked at the below link.
    (and if you want to respond, please do so at the other website, please)

    Now, after you asked those two question do not be surprised the same shall happen with the atheists…….silence as the facts and logic they use will rise up and turn against them.

  • Check out FAT CITY in Metairie. They changed the laws there and crime went down even before the law went into effect. Now that place has major changes.

    For someone who refers to themselves as “sober”, they sure act like an alcoholic.

  • It’s a lot easier for the BUMS to ask. beg and panhandle for a MONEY or DRUGS from the wasted and addicts on Bourbon St than the family types at the zoo.

  • scarshapedstar

    Responded quite easily. Anyway, just as I thought, you’re another transplant trying to assimilate New Orleans into the Bible Belt Borg. Keep tilting at that windmill, buddy, but we tune you people out year-round, not just when you wave your HOMO SEX IS SIN signs on Fat Tuesday. Nothing new there.

  • scarshapedstar

    Or, rather, I tried to respond, but NRO has the usual cowardly wingnut policy of screening all their comments to maintain ideological purity, so if it doesn’t appear by the end of the day I’ll reproduce it here.