By Mary Beth Romig
In response to the recent opinion from Owen Courreges in the October 19, 2015 issue of Uptown Messenger, I would like the opportunity to share good news about what the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) has accomplished in terms of commercial revitalization and affordable housing, specifically in the two neighborhoods Courreges mentions.
First, with regards to Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, NORA has invested more than $8 million in support of commercial revitalization. Among them, the once dilapidated Myrtle Banks School is now home to several non-profit organizations. We have invested in both the internal renovation and external restoration of the New Orleans Mission, so that the Mission can better serve the city’s homeless population. Other non-profits we have invested in on the Boulevard include Good Work Network which provides business development services to minority and women-owned businesses and Café Reconcile which provides life skills and job training program to improve the lives of our city’s at-risk youth. Through NORA’s Façade Renew Program, we have invested in 15 projects to date, among them 10 existing/long standing businesses/entities, seven of which are non-profits providing vital housing, counseling, heath care, education and youth engagement/training services.
In addition to our commercial investments, NORA has invested in the construction of 154 affordable housing units (rental, sold homes and permanent supportive housing for former homeless) in the Central City neighborhood near the Oretha Castle Haley corridor in partnership with Harmony Neighborhood Development and Jericho Road, and most recently acted as our own developer in the construction of five affordable housing units on S. Saratoga Street. These homes are part of the 463 affordable housing units constructed with the funds ($29.7 million) awarded to NORA directly from HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2) in 2010. Our NSP2 investment in the King Rampart building located just around the corner on Martin Luther King Blvd has 70 affordable apartments for senior citizens 55 and older. NORA serves as the anchor tenant for The Harrell Building, which is also home to the CeaseFire.
Courreges also references our inclusion of the Broad Refresh Project building on NORA’s website. We are proud of our investment in Broad Community Connections, which led the development of the Broad Refresh Project. Not only is the once-abandoned Schwegmann’s building on Broad Street now a Whole Foods Market featuring their 365 product line (a successful model for the corporation nationwide), it is also home to non-profits including Liberty’s Kitchen, which offers culinary training and job opportunities to at-risk youth. Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine is also housed in that location, where medical students are learning how to advise patients from all walks of life on the importance of good nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
NORA’s investments extend beyond these two neighborhoods, as we continue our mission to bring vacant properties back to life and bring life to our entire community. I encourage Mr. Courreges to learn more about NORA’s accomplishments before he offers criticism of the agency’s work.
Mary Beth Romig is Director of Communications for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, headquartered on O.C. Haley Boulevard.