A groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday (Oct. 3) marked the beginning of the George Washington Carver Playground Improvement Project in the Black Pearl neighborhood.
The scope of work includes upgrades and renovations to the playground’s existing concessions building and restrooms to bring them up to city, Department of Health and Hospitals and Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the city’s Capital Projects Director Vincent Smith, CEO of New Orleans Recreation Development Commission CEO Larry Barabino Jr., District 98 state Rep. Aimee Freeman, former state Rep. Neil Abramson and community member Burnell Scales attended the ceremony.
“The group assembled here have been boots on the ground to ensure this project happens,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “It has taken a multi-tier approach to secure the necessary resources to fund the completion of the whole project, which includes our local, state and federal partners, and most importantly you, the residents.”
This $777,000 initial phase of improvements is financed by city bond funds and by State Capital Outlay dollars with the support of Freeman, the district’s current state representative, and Abramson, who represented District 98 from 2008 to 2020.
Abramson said he began working on the project from the start of his tenure in the State Capitol. “It was a priority for me as the first playground that I requested state funding to rehabilitate,” Abramson said. “The restoration of this playground here in the Black Pearl community has been a long time coming, and I want to thank state Rep. Freeman for picking up the ball where I left it in Baton Rouge.”
Freeman said the project has also been a priority for her. “The youth in our community matter, and this neighborhood facility is for all our youth across the city,” she said. “Whether you are coming from in the community or from Gentilly, this park provides another opportunity to learn skills, collaborate and have fun safely.”
The new kitchen facilities will also support NORD programming, and the existing play equipment is being replaced with a newly expanded playground and interactive play equipment. Additional safety accessibility upgrades will also be added, including decorative steel fencing at the Prytania Street entrance.
“As we continue to move forward to bring this playground back into commerce, we are also looking to provide more programming to this park and community,” NORD CEO Barabino said. “At the end of the day, it is always about the community.”
The construction project has two phases. The playground restoration currently underway is Phase 1.
The second phase of improvements will focus on the ball field, which has become a de facto dog park for residents. A replacement dog park is not in the current plans.
NORD’s webpage on Carver Playground includes a warning that leash laws will be enforced in the park.
The Phase 2 renovation includes a new turf field, high mast lighting, fencing replacement as well as covered dugouts and viewing bleachers. The start of this project is pending the receipt of a recently approved $1 million fund appropriation by the state, officials said.
“This is a great day to be in the Black Pearl,” said Scales, a longtime Black Pearl resident. “I am so glad that this is finally happening, and we are planning to have structured activities here for the tons of kids in this community who want a place to play. This is a crime-fighter, and I thank everyone for getting this done.”