NEW ORLEANS - September 6 - As a key next step in developing a unified plan for rebuilding New Orleans, the ACORN Housing team along with 15 other planning and architectural teams were selected to provide planning assistance to the city’s districts and neighborhoods. The team was assigned responsibility for helping to produce plans for District 7 that includes Bywater and District 8, the Lower 9th.
The plans are expected to be completed by year’s end. Appointment of the ACORN Housing team to this prestigious assignment was announced on August 28th by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Councilmember-at-Large Oliver M. Thomas. Formation of the Community Support Organization was also announced. They will serve as an advisor to the Greater New Orleans Support Foundation to provide community input into the planning initiative’s decision-making process.
We are also proud to have the help of two outstanding firms as part of our team: The firm of Williams Architecture from New Orleans will assist us in the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood (Planning District 7) planning, and EDAW from Atlanta will help in the Upper 9th Ward (Planning District 8).
The ACORN Housing team is a unique assembly of universities and organizations, each committed to social, economic, and environmental justice in post-Katrina New Orleans, with the unrivaled community outreach capacity of its sister organization, ACORN.
The university members of the team are Cornell University Departments of City and Regional Planning and Historic Preservation Planning; Center for Human Environments at City University of New York; Center for Human Environments and the Department of Civil Engineering at Columbia University; Earth Institute of Columbia University; Department of Community Design and Development at the LSU Hurricane Center; School of Architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Pratt Center and the Pratt Institute School of Architecture; and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne.
“On behalf of our planning team, I want to thank the New Orleans Support Foundation and the City of New Orleans for this opportunity to help the city recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina,” said Steve Bradberry, ACORN’s head organizer in New Orleans. “ACORN is proud to collaborate in such a vital role in the rebirth of New Orleans.”
“ACORN Housing was selected as a district planner because the Community Support Foundation felt that they had "exceptional capacity" for planning,” said Kenneth Reardon, Chair of the Cornell University Department of City and Regional Planning. “This is extremely exciting.”
The planning work being undertaken by ACORN Housing and ACORN is just the latest of the firm’s activities to help rebuild New Orleans.
ACORN Housing has also been involved in helping homeowners preserve their homes, with the launching of its “Home Clean-Out Demonstration Program.” Work crews hired by ACORN, volunteers, and students clean out the houses, gut the insides of the homes, eliminate the mold and tarp the roofs at an average cost of $2,500 per home, but free to the homeowner. Without taking these steps, many of the homes would suffer additional damage and may not be able to be repaired.
As of August 1, more than 1,500 homes have been gutted, with more than 1,000 homes on a waiting list. They have held community meetings with displaced New Orleanians in the cities where they were currently relocated and with their partners have produced detailed plans for the neighborhoods of the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East.
They are also developing 150 adjudicated properties in the 9th Ward and New Orleans East that were recently awarded to them by City of New Orleans under a special program to put these properties back on the tax roles after being rehabbed. This $20M project will provide for a variety of attractive, sustainable low- and moderate-income single family and rental housing. AHC is also partnering with the LSU School of Architecture to develop properties in the 9th Ward as well as other units with Pratt and the New Jersey Institute of Technology in New Orleans East.
ACORN Housing is also rehabilitating several houses with the Preservation Resource Center in Holy Cross. Earlier this month, ACORN also released a report of Planning Principles to guide the rebuilding of New Orleans that was prepared by ACORN Housing and its partners.
“Rebuilding After Hurricane Katrina—ACORN Planning Principles” outlines ACORN’s position on a number of critical planning categories in post-Katrina New Orleans: housing, employment, education, transportation, safety and security, healthcare, and open space. In addition to delineating the principles that will inform ACORN’s involvement in the planning process, the document also describes the origins, members, and methods of the ACORN Housing Planning Team.
“On behalf of all of the partners on the ACORN Housing team, we are excited to get started on moving ahead with this project,” said Alton Bennett, President of ACORN Housing Corporation. “We appreciate the opportunity to work on the development of a city-wide plan to guide the recovery, reconstruction and future growth of New Orleans.”
These plans will give us clear direction on how to rebuild our city,’’ said Vanessa Guarringer, an ACORN member and participate in the planning process.
“It’s extremely important for residents to have an active voice in the rebuilding of New Orleans. In fact, residents’ ideas communicated through these plans will make a lasting impression on the city’s character and appearance.’’