Apr 032014

the big issueThe entrepreneurship boom in New Orleans is a real phenomenon, and a crucial factor in the city’s continued rebirth — but it must also be accompanied by more economic opportunities for the unsustainable number of jobless African-American men in the city, a panel of business leaders said Thursday evening.

“We can get there,” said Rod Miller, CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. “We are a ‘new’ New Orleans, but we’re not our best New Orleans.” Continue reading »

Mar 312014

the big issueHas post-Katrina rebuilding really created a new city out of New Orleans, or is the “boom” more of an artificial economic bubble that is bound to burst? This question will drive the next installment of Tulane Hillel’s occasional series of “The Big Issue” discussions, set for Thursday evening with the title “New Orleans 2.0: Fact or Fiction?” Continue reading »

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Feb 252014
A drawing of the proposed community center included in city documents.

A drawing of the proposed community center included in city documents.

Kevin Brown (via tccno.org)

Kevin Brown (via tccno.org)

A long-delayed plan to create a new community center on Monroe Street in west Carrollton — now slated to be a new home for Hollygrove’s Trinity Christian Community — received a thumbs-up from the New Orleans City Planning Commission on Tuesday, and organizers say they now have the funding in line for the project to move forward. Continue reading »

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Feb 242014

LaToya Cantrell

LaToya Cantrell

The state lawmakers who sit on the legislature’s Hurricane Recovery Committee will take up the issue of “intimidating” Road Home collection letters previously raised by New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell in a meeting this evening (Monday, Feb. 24), officials said. Continue reading »

Jan 222014
The site of the former Martin Wine Cellar on Baronne Street is still surrounded by chain-link fence, but the new roof on the old New Orleans Bicycle Club building can be seen behind it. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The site of the former Martin Wine Cellar on Baronne Street is still surrounded by chain-link fence, but the new roof on the old New Orleans Bicycle Club building can be seen behind it. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Although the site of the former Martin Wine Cellar on Baronne Street remains a quiet concrete foundation, neighbors have been cheered by the sounds of construction at the old New Orleans Bicycle Club building next door, and owner Cedric Martin says rebuilding his beloved grocery remains on track to begin in March and finish six months later. Continue reading »

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Nov 142013

The one-day “After Katrina: Transnational Perspectives on the Futures of the Gulf South” conference Friday at the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University will feature keynote presentations by Richard Campanella and Kalamu ya Salaam, as well as a range of other local cultural figures, neighborhood leaders, activists and academics. Continue reading »

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Oct 092013
Prytania Theatre owner Rene Brunet laughs with his son, Robert Brunet (right), as he arrives at Sunday night's Oscar-watching party in February 2012. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)

Prytania Theatre owner Rene Brunet laughs with his son, Robert Brunet (right), as he arrives at Sunday night’s Oscar-watching party in February 2012. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)

Jean-Paul Villere

As a child of the 80s reared on cable and the small screen, my first opportunity to see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen came in a mid 90s summer-revival series at the State Palace, and the experience remains with me today.  First of all, the movie alone to be seen in this fashion should not be missed, I don’t care how many times you’ve seen it.  Secondly, to see a film in a somewhat decrepit but likely once masterful venue layers the sensory.  Creaky, spent springs and paint-chipped seating, flooring with decades of goo, and echoey cavern of yesterday celluloid dank and dark.  And then Mr. Brunet spoke. Continue reading »

Oct 072013

Owen Courreges

The Saenger Theater has finally reopened.  The opening gala took went off without a hitch over the weekend, with the facility receiving rave reviews.  Public and private dollars funded the whopping $52 million renovation that has been in the making for eight years, so expectations were running high.  Thankfully, the Saenger seems to have delivered.

Even cantankerous Times-Picayune theater critic (and sometimes theologian) Ted Mahne, whose scathing review of “Avenue-Q” is the stuff of legend, gushed that the Saenger was “magical.”  Oh, and the sense of civic pride? It was “palpable.” Continue reading »

Sep 132013
The former Frank's Steakhouse site on Freret Street. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The former Frank’s Steakhouse site on Freret Street. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The possibility that an upscale student-housing development may be planned for the large block of Freret Street where the former Frank’s Steakhouse still remains a shuttered landmark is being met with concern and questions by people in the neighborhood. Continue reading »

Sep 122013

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

In our opinion, C. Ray Nagin was the worst mayor of our lifetimes. It is entirely possible that Nagin was the worst mayor in New Orleans’ 295-year history, going all the way back to the French and Spanish chief executives whom Danae has been studying recently.

However, being a terrible mayor is not of itself a crime. Later this month, a jury will be convened in federal court to consider whether accepting some $200,000 in cash and gifts, along with several truckloads of free granite, is indeed a federal crime. The jurors will presumably hear Nagin’s Chief Administrative Officer Greg Meffert and big-time vendor Mark St. Pierre, both of whom are currently doing time in the federal pen. Continue reading »

Aug 122013

Crowds gather in front of The Company Burger on Freret St. as owner Adam Biderman hands out hamburgers for free Thursday, Sept. 3, 2012, while most of Uptown waits for power to come back. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

Freret Neighbors United president Andrew Amacker talks with residents during a crowded neighborhood meeting about a security-district proposal at Samuel J. Green Charter School. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)

When more than 100 Freret residents gathered in the Samuel J. Green Charter School cafeteria in March to discuss a proposal to use a property-tax fee to hire private security guards for the neighborhood, the meeting had every appearance of a textbook example of gentrification and its painful fallout. Two white people sat at a table marked “FOR,” two African-Americans sat at a table marked “AGAINST,” and a room full of other black residents argued bitterly against what they saw as the secrecy of the proposal, about their sense of disenfranchisement amid an influx of “new residents,” and about the rising costs of merely remaining in their homes.

Given the explosion of commercial growth on Freret Street — from only a single restaurant four years ago to 14 blocks of highly-lauded cuisine, new entertainment venues and businesses ranging from a dog-groomer to a craft-cocktail lounge — concerns about gentrification should be expected. But after that heated meeting in March, the proponents and opponents literally walked away from the school building together down the sidewalk, relying on relationships and respect forged over decades to find a middle ground — suggesting that, perhaps, something is different about what’s happening on Freret. Continue reading »

Aug 012013

The Lyons Center pool is empty on Wednesday afternoon after all outdoor pools in the city closed Monday, July 29. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Less than two months after Mayor Mitch Landrieu celebrated its reopening with a jubilant splash, the pool at the Lyons Center is now closed for the summer, along with all the other outdoor pools in the city.

Closing the pools at the end of July was budgetary decision based on the return to school in August, but residents and some officials say another week or two would have been appropriate. Continue reading »

Jul 302013

A rendering of the Isidore Newman School’s proposed new preschool building. (courtesy Isidore Newman School)

Isidore Newman School hosted parents and community members Tuesday night as the school moves forward with plans to more than double its early childhood facility.

Head of School Dale Smith and architect Mac Ball presented the 950-student school’s plans to expand enrollment offerings to its youngest attendees.

“I think it’s safe to say he’s a preservationist at heart,” Smith said of Ball — one of the reasons he was selected for the job. Continue reading »

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Jun 062013

Newsflash: “Neighbors and nightclub clash over live music.” It sounds like a headline from any given day’s report from the City Council chambers, but it’s actually a story that’s nearly as old as New Orleans.

Whether New Orleans properly takes care of its musicians and other artists is another never-ending saga — but one that may finally be showing some improvement, according a panel discussion held at Tulane University on Thursday evening. Continue reading »

Feb 032013

The Superdome can be seen through a hole in the roof of the former Myrtle Banks school on O.C. Haley Boulevard, which is slated for redevelopment. (Photo by Steve Beatty used with permission from The Lens.)

While the Superdome and the so-called “Clean Zone” around it have been the focus of numerous improvements leading up to the Super Bowl, some of the city’s most severe blight remains literally right next door in Central City, as shown in a photo essay by the editors of The Lens.

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Jan 302013

The vacant lot at 2101 Prytania (image via Google maps).

Firefighters battle the flames consuming the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on Prytania Street in January 2011. (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

A vacant lot on Prytania Street in the Lower Garden District where a century-old church burned down two years ago could become a small development of eight homes, based on plans discussed Tuesday afternoon by the city’s architectural review team. Continue reading »

Jan 302013

Jean-Paul Villere

As recently as this past Monday evening as I walked home from work, I saw an older black couple gutting a house in my neighborhood, some seven-plus years after the events of 2005.  No volunteers, no fancy apparatus, no wrecking ball.  Just two people, a truck and flatbed, and work gloves, overalls and dust masks, the pungent mold wafting from across the street.  Where this house is, it’s unclear if the water came up or the water fell in, as the raised-pier home may or may not have taken flood water, and the roof while appearing to be halfway past its useful 30 year life did not appear to be damaged or compromised.  The how is almost moot.  Water up, water down, it doesn’t matter (unless you’re dealing with some damned adjuster).  Water damaged the home.  Whereas the why is more than evident.  So many years later some may ask Why now?  Why not choose to sell or abandon it all together?  This home means something to them, and now in 2013 they’re here, they’re able-bodied, and they’re doing it, seemingly unassisted.

One takeaway should be this: our journey in recovery is far from complete. Continue reading »