To mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, this week Curbed is looking at how the housing, architecture, and neighborhoods of New Orleans have changed since the storm. Here, the first of two Q&As with long-time residents of the city.
Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures permanently altered New Orleans, and now, nearly 10 years after the storm, residents are reflecting on the ways in which this city has changed—for worse and for better. Journalists raced to report back to the world what it desperately wanted to know: How is New Orleans doing these days? Really, the best way to find that out is the way New Orleanians have always gotten important information—ask your neighbors. We asked long-time residents of a representative sample of 15 neighborhoods—neighborhoods that were drastically affected by the storm, have changed rapidly in the past decade, and/or have a strong neighborhood identity—to reflect on how housing, architecture, development, quality of life, and neighborhood character have changed, or stayed the same, since the storm. Their stories are of a changed New Orleans, one with rising housing costs, an increasingly younger population, and creeping gentrification. In some neighborhoods, post-Katrina recovery has remained stagnant, while other neighborhoods have flourished, either due to increased investment in the area or the sheer willpower of longtime residents. But many accounts show a New Orleans with a stubbornly strong sense of community and history—you know your neighbors, you value local businesses, you understand you are the mere custodian of a decades-old historical home. In that way, in many neighborhoods, not much has changed.
This is part one of a two-part series of Q&As with locals. Conversations have been shortened and edited.7th Ward/Esplanade Ridge • Broadmoor • Bywater • Central City • French Quarter • Gentilly • Lakeview
7th Ward/Esplanade Ridge
Illustrations of New Orleans architectural styles by Sam Randolph.
Home to parts of the University of New Orleans campus and the Fairgrounds Race Course and Slots (where the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival takes place), it is the second-largest of the 17 wards of New Orleans. Because of its proximity to the London Avenue Canal, which breached, it suffered major flooding after Katrina.
Your guide: Megan Braden-Perry, New Orleans freelance writer, author of children's book Allen the Alligator Counts Through New Orleans. She has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.
Is the house you own the same house you grew up in?
Yes, my grandfather bought this house July 4, 1969. I inherited it when my family died in 2002, and had to quit college after Katrina to rebuild it. It's weird to be a grown-up in the house where I grew up. I recently found an old magnet from my childhood in the yard!
How have you seen your street change in the years after Katrina?
My block used to be about 80 percent owner-occupied, but now I'd say it's maybe half owners, half renters. My neighbors are getting younger and whiter and I see lots more out-of-state license plates.
Before the storm, the typical person who lived in the neighborhood was a single middle-aged black woman who owned the property. After the storm, the type of person is a 30-something white male with a dog and a bike and a diverse career—he's a teacher, he repairs homes, he cooks, works at a bar. I hear my neighborhood is also popular with the lesbian community.
Describe the style of your house.
My house was built in 1938 and is described in old newspaper ads as a "hi-lo" house. There's a converted garage that functions as a den, and we have a carriage house. A fancy doctor and his family lived here for years and it's the only house like it in the neighborhood. Oddly enough, I've found houses in Gentilly that are like it. All the houses are different in my neighborhood and no one, thank God, had to tear down a house after the storm.
What do you love about the neighborhood?
I love that my neighborhood is so close to everything! I'm only 15 minutes away from New Orleans East, Uptown—when there's not crazy construction—Metairie, Kenner, and the Westbank. I'm not that far from St. Bernard Parish either. When people visit my house for the first time, they always say they've passed it many times before.
What needs to change about the neighborhood?
I worry about the broken window theory with my neighbors who aren't from places where you have to lock windows and doors. I fear criminals will successfully commit crimes of opportunity victimizing one neighbor, and then they will think the entire neighborhood is fair game. Also, I'm sick of trashy, unhealthy businesses opening: Dollar General Market, Free Style urban apparel, Boost Mobile. Our neighbors do not need that!
Do you see yourself staying there for another 10 years?
My two-year plan is to get out of here and move to the East Coast if things haven't changed—if absentee landlord neighbors don't stop renting to criminals, if no nice places open up. New Orleans isn't a place to raise a child—my son is 13 months—unless you're rich enough to afford fancy school or poor enough to qualify for aid for fancy school. I feel like in two years, my neighborhood will gentrify enough for me to be able to sell and run.
New Orleans Locals on a Decade of Post-Storm Change, Part 2
Uncovering a New Orleans Shotgun House's 'Good Bones'
Spray-Painted FEMA X Still Marks the Storm in New Orleans
Revamping and Living in a 'Love Project' of a House in New Orleans
Turning a 'Falling Apart' NOLA Colonial Into an Artist's Home Base
Using the Lessons of Katrina to Rebuild Smarter After Disaster
A subdistrict of New Orleans' Uptown area, the low-lying area flooded after Hurricane Katrina. In January 2006, a Bring Back New Orleans Commission map came out that placed a low priority on Broadmoor's redevelopment and suggested the area be turned into a green space. The neighborhood residents—many of whom were already rebuilding their homes—did not appreciate that suggestion, and have worked to return the area to a viable neighborhood.
Your guide: Maggie Carroll, a homeowner in Broadmoor since 2002, president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association. She also renovates and preserves homes in the area.
How did you start doing renovations and preservation?
Before Katrina I worked in the marketing department at University of New Orleans. And I still had that job after Katrina. I left that position and went to work for the Road Home program. I was there about 9 months, got carpal tunnel, had surgery, and I decided that I didn't want to go back. We had already bought this other house on the block, and by then I pretty much learned how to do carpentry and a lot of stuff, because we had to become contractors after Katrina, anyway. So I decided to start doing that full-time. Now I'm about to finish my fifth house. All homes are in about a block radius from each other.
My husband's an architect. I'm just really into the historic architecture of New Orleans. Architecture's a really important part, to me, of a place I want to live, so with all the renovations we do we always put it back as historically accurate as we can. It's like an upgrade: it's like a modern house, with modern conveniences, inside a shell of a historic house, but also with trim, little ornate things that not everyone who remodels pays attention to. What I usually do is salvage the doors, the trim around, and any baseboard I can, and piece it all back together, because sometimes we'll move the floor plan around because the houses were built in the 20s and everything was very compartmentalized, and now people like things to be a little more open. It still has that kind of historic feel; you don't feel like you're walking into a house that was just built, although kind of technically you are because it's really just a shell.
What was the architecture style of the neighborhood before, and has that changed?
Broadmoor has several different styles of architecture. One thing it's really known for is the raised basements. Those were initially built on the major thoroughfares, like Napoleon and Fontainebleau.They were designed because Broadmoor was built in a low-lying area, and that was to be storage and not living spaces, and over time when there wasn't flooding people started to close those spaces in and make them into apartments and stuff. I haven't worked on any of those houses. The houses I work on are mostly craftsman, cottage-style houses. Single-story, because I like a project that's manageable for me. We have a lot of that, plus arts and crafts and some cool Mediterranean stuff—it's a really neat mix of architecture styles. That's what's cool about the neighborhood: you don't feel like you're in a suburb where every house looks the same.
We don't have a lot of new construction. We do have some green construction: Green, LEED certified houses that aren't freakishly modern. But mostly, it's small renovation things. People might decide to be more energy efficient and replace historic windows with new vinyl windows. People might put solar [panels] on because we have these great incentives.
What is the typical kind of person who lives in the neighborhood, and has that changed?
We're kind of a microcosm of the city, as we were before Katrina. We have a great diversity of people based on race, socioeconomic status; people living in poverty and ones you'd consider wealthy live in Broadmoor. And a lot of people in between.
There's less affordable housing than there was before the storm, and that's a citywide issue. Prices have gone up a lot. I'll be straight up open about what I paid for my house: in 2002, for about 1,500 square feet, two bedrooms, one bathroom—and then we added a bath—nice historic house, we got it for $132,000. That one sold a year ago for like 290-something. That doesn't seem consistent with any national real estate trends. That's making it hard for people who grew up here to own a home. Most of the people my homes have sold to are not originally New Orleanians.
How about the convenience of the neighborhood. Is it walkable?
Not as walkable as I would consider some areas where there's a coffee shop, a bar, a restaurant. We have a very residential core. But as far as convenience, if you do have a vehicle or you use public transportation, Broad and Washington is one of the biggest hubs for public transit in the city. Most people who don't have a vehicle walk by my house, and they're heading to Broad and Washington to get on public transportation. It's pretty convenient—all roads seem to lead to Broadmoor. You can be downtown in five minutes, Uptown in five to seven minutes.
The Rosa F. Keller Library was a big development.
We had a mediocre library before Katrina. It had termite damage and was [in] a pretty bad state of disrepair, but it didn't need to be demolished. It had a lot of historic significance. They tore down the newer part, and left the historic building to be our community center, which is something we run as a neighborhood, in partnership with the New Orleans Public Library. We had a great architecture firm, EskewDumezRipple, that designed the new library. I love the space … when you go in, all the computer stations are occupied. All the parking is full. It's definitely being utilized.
Although Bywater is part of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, it's located along the natural levee of the Mississippi River and therefore did not flood significantly after the storm. In the past decade, the neighborhood has seen several large developments, including the Rice Mill Lofts, Crescent Park, the expansion of New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and many bars and restaurants.
Your guide: Tyrone Bonner, Bywater Neighborhood Association board member and Bywater homeowner since 1997
How have you seen the neighborhood change in the past decade?
Just in terms of this area not flooding (after Katrina), you have more homeowners moving back, a lot of renters moved out. Now a lot of people moving into Bywater because it's not a flood zone. During hurricanes you don't have the crazy ladies saying, "Oh, here we go again."
The quality of life around here has changed tremendously. I've lived back here pretty much my whole life. I'm originally from Chicago, but the majority of my life was in this neighborhood, in this community. You get a French Quarter-style house for not French Quarter-style traffic. And I can really appreciate the up-and-coming businesses that are really flourishing back here, like Mariza, like The Joint, like Med-Pro, which is a pharmacist right here on St. Claude Avenue. We have an urgent care facility right on St. Claude. That's everything you need in a neighborhood.
I love the diversity. As a kid growing up, this neighborhood was always diversified, as far as blacks, whites, Spanish, whatever your gender is. It's always been like that. People who are moving in here are starting to say, "oh, that's new"—it's always been like that. Never an issue of race or anything like that, because we all live in one neighborhood. Never an issue of renters and homeowners, because we all live in one neighborhood. I have neighbors from Northern Louisiana, I have neighbors from as far as Connecticut who have bought homes here. I have another neighbor from New York and I said, "why'd you pick New Orleans, you could have picked anywhere?" He said, it's a good quality of life here.
So the neighborhood is very walkable?
New Orleans is a horse-and-buggy town, so it doesn't really take a lot. You can bicycle anywhere. Because of that neighborhood feel, let's just say if I see you at a bus stop, I'll say, "you goin' that way?" You get that here. You just have to go with your gut here. There's a Bywater bus that comes through the neighborhood, and you can go right down to St. Claude—that's always running. You can go get barbecue. If you get a cold, you go to Med-Pro pharmacy, you get some Aspirin or some Tylenol or what have you. If you need to go Urgent Care you can go to a doctor. If you want fine dining you can go to Mariza at the Rice Mill Lofts—which is another staple in this community because you have quality of life, you have great people who live there. You can go right there to Crescent Park—New Orleans is finally taking advantage of its waterway. It's so beautiful up there—I saw so many people there at 4th of July to watch the fireworks. It was awesome.
I still frequent Jack Dempsey's. They took a hit when the Navy Base closed, but that was a tradition for my family. You go to Jack Dempsey's and they'll feed you, my God. I still go back and support them. A lot of places came back (after Katrina), so it's not like a void.
What have been your favorite developments in the neighborhood?
I really enjoy the Rice Mill, because as a kid that was Gulf Cycle. Gulf Cycle was where you got all your bicycle parts from, your streamers and stuff like that. To see what they've done with it is beautiful. Even the bridge that connects to Crescent Park by Elizabeth's and Turn Services; I love what they did with the Turn Services building. I'm all about a good quality of life: who wants blight?
Describe the typical people who live in the neighborhood.
Everyone's in the sweet spot right now. Everyone's real, real cool. Everyone gets along with one another. I had an issue where I locked my keys out of the car, and there's a neighbor of mine who works at Pop-a-Lock. And I was like, "man, you ain't gonna believe this …" and he said "I'm on my way." I didn't even have to tell him what happened.
Is there anything you hope will change about the neighborhood?
I just hope more development comes—because there are some empty buildings in the neighborhood that need to be put back in commerce. I just hope that changes for the better.
The neighborhood was a huge commercial district for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era, when large department stores lined the area's main thoroughfare of Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, but the area saw decline in the 60s. The neighborhood did not flood in the storm, and, continuing an upward trajectory that started before Katrina, has become a corridor known for social-justice centered organizations, plus the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Market music venue and community center.
Your guide: Carol Bebelle, co-founder of Ashe Cultural Arts Center on Oretha Castle Haley, which became a hub of resources and comfort for Katrina-affected residents after the storm.
Do you live in the neighborhood, too?
I lived first part of my life in the 7th Ward, then in the Carrollton area, bought a house in the university area—it was damaged in Hurricane Isaac, and I haven't had to time to work on it, so I'm in Central City. But I think I'm going to end up in Central City. I don't think I'm going to wind up going back Uptown because the thing that Central City gave me is it reminded me what community felt like. That means there are people who know you, horns are tooting at you when you're walking down the street, folks are speaking to you when you walk down the street, folks are calling you and letting you know what's going on. That's what I grew up in. It really is like a reminder of as a country where we could be. It's the fact that we've been disconnected from the intimacy of community that many of us either grew up with or it's a part of our heritage. As we've moved into new urbanism, so much of that accentuates the individual rather than the collective, so we've lost the practice of it. It's a part of what attracts people to New Orleans. In that way, Central City is very symbolic of this quality about New Orleans that has us being really still rooted in the intimacy of community. It has a lot to do with the ethnic derivations of a lot of the folks who are here, particularly the African imprint that's on this city.
What impressed me about Central City after Katrina is we were never working alone. There was always a core of organizations working together. That's always been the thing that's so admirable about Central City. There was a democracy of people working together to solve problems that was absent in the city. This community has a theme: community, culture, and commerce. This community has a manifesto.That's part of the allure of Central City.
There's also the proximity of it; it's not a spread out community. It's a community that has architecture that has people living close to each other. It's a community that's diverse in that in it it has people who are very poor and people who are very rich. It has a considerable number of black folks but a good number of white folks. Now we've got Hispanic neighbors and others who are coming in. Mary Rowe (executive vice president of the Municipal Arts Society in New York), she put forward an idea of New Orleans being a prophetic city for America. That...the disaster put us in the position to essentially rebuild an American city, contemporarily. To build this city well enough for people see the imprint of justice for all, equity, everybody being at the table, having institutions work together, winds up being a standard for other urban communities. Within that formula, Central City winds up being the prophetic community.
I think gentrification is lurking out there, and it's a possibility for us, but only a possibility. Right now we're diversified. The notion of whether we become gentrified has to do with how committed we stay to work that brings people to the table and builds bridges. That's the thing we're dealing with today. The thing we're working on to become a diversified self, and not a gentrified self, is that we always want to be a place where lots of people fit, and that the people who have historically been here can afford to stay here.
Central City is the place where we're connecting dots, learning to work with each other—we're nervous. What we have to be concerned about is our neighbors coming in on the commerce [side].
Is there a particular type of business you wouldn't want to see in the neighborhood?
I don't really think that way, because it depends on what the business plan is. It's really less about the business and more about how they do business. The property's almost gone on the boulevard. It's the notion of, who are going to be the neighbors? Who are the neighbors going to be with each other? When I initially moved into the neighborhood, and when I walked out the door, a neighbor across the street said "Hey neighbor" — I didn't know who it was, they didn't know who I was. I never got a hey neighbor on Hilary Street [Uptown], and that's having been there for years. So there's a decided difference in terms of connectivity of people. A lady next door who lived in a shotgun double, when I forgot to push the trash out, she put the trash out. And then she would find a way to remind me again about when it is that the trash needs to be put out.
Someone asked me the the other day, "I'm a white woman and I moved here because I love the community that's here. I don't want to be seen as an interloper. What do I need to do?" What you do is you find out where the "we" are, make yourself known, and roll up your sleeves and start doing.
The locus of tourist activity in New Orleans, the historic neighborhood remained mostly dry after the storm and is still bustling with activity at all hours.
Your guide: Grace Wilson, engagement editor of NOLA.com, the website for New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune.
How long have you lived in the French Quarter?
I bought my place in February 2006. I think—those months and days sort of ran together after the storm. And these past nine years have flown by, too. I owned a house before the storm in Mid-City. My first place wasn't my dream home, but the note was equal to my rent Uptown when I was in college. It was also back in 2004 when you didn't need any money for a down payment. Zero down payment and stated income loans. Those were the days! My place flooded in the storm and the Road Home bought my house. It was enough for me to put money down on a French Quarter place. My dad said that was always the goal: "Own a piece of the Quarter." So my first house wasn't the dream house, but it got me to my dreams.
Describe the style of your house.
My place feels like I'm on vacation every day. It's a tropical courtyard with a big pool. There are balconies with bistro tables and storm shutters, ferns and bricks. Palms and banana leaves. The whole thing. I find people at the gate all the time trying to peek in. If I have time I show them around. Recently there's been a renewed interest in Clay Shaw since the JFK anniversary. Our address is listed as the last place he lived. The pool used to be the site of the St. Peter cemetery. So there's a lot of history and mystery in this place. There are 24 units in the compound. It's a mix of old and new buildings. The buildings closer to street are the oldest ones. My place is part of a newer construction, probably built within the last 40 years, tucked back in an upper courtyard. It's made to look old with a stucco facade—and I do mean "facade" because there's literally styrofoam under it.
What was it like being in such a tourist-heavy part of town right after Katrina?
Right after the storm locals were moving back to the Quarter. Before Katrina, two apartments out of 24 were occupied by full-time residents. After Katrina, the complex was half full. The out-of-town owners were cutting bait, locals who were flooded out were looking for turn-key places to live. I had visions, and hopes, the Quarter would become more of a neighborhood again. Maybe a butcher would open up. A fish monger. A cheese shop. At least the French Market is stepping up. It wasn't so tourist heavy back then, but even now I think I live in a pretty "quiet" part of the Quarter. There were a lot of contractor-types wandering up and down Bourbon.
What's the typical person who lives in the French Quarter?
Well, there's nothing typical about French Quarter denizens. I have young and old friends who live in the Quarter. Some are very wealthy and some earn a living making tips from the street. It's true that over the past 10 years people sell their buildings, and those who have lived there for 20 years or more on moderate rents are soon pushed out as the places are renovated and the rents double or the units go condo. But for every friend that gets priced out, another pal moves in after finding a hand-written "For Rent" sign perched in the window.
Joe's Wine Cellar kept a running tab for me and let me pay monthly. Joe's gone and so are those house accounts. I hear some of the grand dame restaurants are doing away with their house accounts, too. It's a shame, because it reminds me so much of the small Louisiana town where I grew up. When you walked through the door of the local business, the owner was usually behind the counter. The staff knew your name, knew your order, knew what to ask you, knew what to get you before you said a word.
There's a lot of love for locals in the French Quarter. Many businesses give a "local's discount" and you can certainly count on owners, shopkeepers, and bartenders to make you feel at home. Sure, like every neighborhood things change around here, but it's true what they say: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Because of its proximity to the London Avenue Canal, much of this neighborhood, apart from some high ground, flooded after the storm. It is bounded by Lake Pontchartrain to the north, Interstate 610 to the south, City Park to the west, and the Industrial Canal to the east.
Your guide: Leslie Bouie, longtime resident of Gentilly Terrace, a subdivision within the neighborhood with a unique style of architecture, and board member of the Preservation Resource Center and the Gentilly Terrace & Gardens Improvement Association
What is the architecture like in your neighborhood?
Contrasting it to the typical styles of New Orleans architecture—Creole Cottages, shotguns, Italianates—Gentilly Terrace has a lot of craftsman type, California bungalow style houses. You see a lot of stucco, tile roofs and things like that. All the houses are built up on terrace lots in this area. I have a brochure from when the neighborhood was first developed and it said "where homes are built on hills." It's kind of a standing joke because it's a terrace lot, which is maybe a three-to-four-foot elevation from the sidewalk. It's not a hill but in New Orleans it's a hill. It's a good floodplain, too.
I would call my house a raised craftsman, above-ground basement house. The first floor is a basement, the second floor is the first floor of living space, and the third floor is the big game room area. It's three levels on a terrace lot which makes it very tall. But it has the exterior look of a large craftsman—it has a tile roof and tile stairs going up the front.
How has the real estate been after the storm?
It's been crazy, but it took awhile. After the storm you have this inventory of homes that are flooded, that are gutted, some people wanted to come back and renovate, some people didn't. You have this big push to get the neighborhood developed. Since it's mostly homeowners and generational ownership, people came back rather quickly. The water wasn't as high in Gentilly Terrace as it was in other neighborhoods, so it came back rather quickly. You do see different people coming in—the next generations in other cases. You see more younger families moving in. It was a rather mature neighborhood before the storm. Lakeview is one of those neighborhoods that saw a huge surge in pricing. Lakeview's pretty much tapped out at this point, so people are coming out more toward Gentilly and Gentilly Terrace. We're experiencing the same type of growth and escalation of prices and quick sales that Lakeview and some other neighborhoods are. This is the first time in Gentilly Terrace that we're seeing the bidding wars going on. So these people are competing with each other—before, the house just went on the market. Homes stay on the market from four days to two weeks. Everything sells very quickly.
Why is the neighborhood so sought after?
First of all, it's very attractive. All of the homes are ones that allow for off-street parking. So you have nice homes, well constructed homes with age and character to them, large lots, off-street parking, it's very convenient—you can go anywhere you want from Gentilly. You can go to the French Quarter; you don't have to get on the interstate.
We have everything in the neighborhood we need, but we may not have everything we want. I wish there was more nightlife. We have churches, we have schools, we have the restaurants. Some of our favorite restaurants are because they're not franchises: Munch Factory, Cafe Gentilly, Juju Bag, Sammy's, East of Italy, and Chinese Tea Garden. We have some non-big-name grocery stores. Our bakery is Sweet Savors bakery. Mike's Hardware is our favorite. We'll go there before we go to Lowe's or Home Depot. He's like the mayor; it's like the meeting place, particularly after the storm.
The people here tend to have a similar view on life. They want the same things: to be able to live peacefully and enjoy life. I'm gonna say this cautiously: we have a small pocket area where there's crime, and we do have some crime but it's almost like it's crimes of opportunity, it's targeted. We have a very involved neighborhood association.
We all know each other, we wave, we look out for each other, but we're very respectful of each other's privacy.
When the 17th Street Canal levee breached after the storm, the New Orleans suburb flooded catastrophically. In the mid-to-latter half of the decade after the storm, the neighborhood began showing signs of life and has since seen a flourishing of its commercial corridors and the return of many of its former residents—plus many new ones.
Your guide: Brian Anderson, senior architect at AGL Architecture and president of the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association.
It seems like Lakeview's architecture is all over the place—there's mid-century moderns and ranch styles, old New Orleans styles and everything in between. Is that accurate?
When the neighborhood was originally laid out, the majority of people buying into it were young families that were returning from World War II. Most of the original architecture of Lakeview was those smaller cottages. It changes a little bit as you get to Mid-City because you have more of that neighborhood's influence creeping into that area, South Lakeview. What you're seeing now, I think, the small cottages don't really lend themselves to the larger floorplans. Even the house I lived in before Katrina was a cottage that someone had done an addition to, because the cottage itself was probably only 1,200 square feet. I think the other side of it, too, is people who live in Lakeview are familiar with the Uptown, Victorian style, and they're enamored with that architecture. My house is Victorian style, modeled after a house my wife and I passed on St. Charles Avenue probably 100 times during Mardi Gras. Another thing, too, is this new Hardie siding is a very cost-effective way to build. It looks like wood siding but it's actually made of a concrete deposit, so it gives you the look and style of the older wood siding but none of the maintenance issues—it's water-resistant, it's not going to rot like wood, termites aren't going to eat it because it's made of concrete. So I think if they go with brick, they usually go with the mid-century modern style, but if they go with siding, which is more economical, that style of architecture usually lends itself to the Victorian style.
Are people building bigger houses in Lakeview?
Yeah, absolutely. I think everyone wants bigger and better. I grew up in a 1,200-square-foot house so it didn't bother me. But a lot of people seem to think that anything short of 2,000 square feet isn't big enough. The cost of the land in Lakeview is so high now, if you spend a lot of money on land and you don't want to built a small house because the resale value is in square footage.
Nationally, people are actually starting to go back in the direction of smaller, more affordable houses. But I think in Lakeview you're getting a lot of younger professionals who have a little bit more money, and they can spend. That's the biggest trend difference in Lakeview since Katrina: maybe not at this point because the property value is so high, but if you came into Lakeview five years ago when property value was still lower when people were still unsure about the neighborhood, a lot of younger couples, professionals, could afford to move here. Whereas before Katrina, there weren't a lot of options for a young couple to move into Lakeview just because the sheer cost of the...land at that point. It is interesting, though: the plus side is we don't have a neighborhood where every house looks the same. No two houses are identical, and the character of the neighborhood really comes out. Downside is that not all of these houses are being designed by architects [laughs], so some of them might not be as aesthetically pleasing as others. We don't look like a tract neighborhood in Houston, but not every house is hitting a home run as far as architecture goes.
Why did you want to stay in Lakeview after the storm?
We made a decision if we were going to stay in the New Orleans metro area after the storm, we were going to be all in. Lakeview is really the only, in my opinion, suburb of New Orleans that's truly a suburb. It's in the city's boundaries, but you get a neighborhood feel you don't get in any other place in the city. When we came back we decided, the city might not be everything we want it to be, but we can make Lakeview everything we want it to be. And we've gotten it: we have the lowest crime rate anywhere in the city, mainly because we pay for private patrol, we have a true neighborhood feeling where you live in the neighborhood, you eat in the neighborhood, your kids go to school in the neighborhood, you can even work in the neighborhood for a lot of people. You have your grocery stores, you have doctors' offices, lawyers, accountants. The restaurants are getting better and better. We have a good mix of business and enough amenities to keep you inside of Lakeview if you want to be in Lakeview. And we're right next to City Park, which is phenomenal.
· Eye on New Orleans archive [Curbed]