a closer walk    since 2014

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Urban Renewal in New Orleans

Urban renewal from the 1950s to 1980s devastated inner city areas of many US cities. Often deemed slums, traditional central neighborhoods were torn apart as old structures were razed, inhabitants evicted, and parking lots, superblock housing projects, and sections of vast freeway systems constructed. Consequently, many cities lost their vitality. As the middle class fled the cities, often due to urban renewal and thus making more room for its processes, businesses followed and resettled in suburban shopping malls. City centers were left with-out commercial facilities, public transportation infrastructure, and job opportunities. As a result, urban poverty and crime rates escalated, which often acted to catalyze the next phase of renewal. Public housing, left to become slums due to disinvestment, the pullout of public funding, and privatization, was torn down and developed into mixed-income neighborhoods.

Since the early 21st century, however, many former suburbanites have rediscovered the value of inner city living. Termed gentrification, such devel-opment has helped to quicken the transformation of inner city quarters into mixed-income zones. Gentrification also often erodes organic urban communities whose poorer households, outnumbering the housing units reserved for them, can no longer afford the increased cost of living in the neighborhood.

In New Orleans the processes of renewal, revitalization, and gentrification have accelerated since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and not only flooded 80% of the city, but also revealed widespread engineering failures and ineffi-ciencies at multiple levels of government. After the forced evacuation of the entire city, officials issued a clean slate status for New Orleans, which barred residents of public housing from returning, even if their units were unharmed by the storm, and prevented the largest hospital in the city from reopening, despite the urgent medical needs of the community.

Amid the public failure of the government, volunteers and charitable organizations filled the city to aid efforts of reconstruction. Media attention stirred great sympathy for New Orleans by putting the spotlight not only on the city's problems, but also on its cultural capital: its music, second line parades, Mardi Gras festivities, cuisine, and eclectic atmosphere.

Today, people from across the United States have continued to relocate to New Orleans, which has given the once-shrinking city a rising population and transformed its neighborhoods. As one of the country's largest nativist urban areas, New Orleans now bears a face that leaves established New Orleanians claiming that their city will never again be the same.