Rebuilding New Orleans

Bring New Orleans Back Commission

The Bring New Orleans Back Commission was established by Mayor Nagin and is comprised of people hand-picked by the mayor.

  • Co-Chairs Mel Lagarde and Barbara Major
  • Boysie Bollinger
  • Kim Boyle
  • Cesar Burgos
  • Joe Canizaro (Mr. Canizaro’s company, Columbus Properties, does not currently have its web site running.
  • Dr. Scott Cowen
  • Archbishop Alfred Hughes
  • Reverend Fred Luter
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Alden McDonald
  • Dan Packer
  • Anthony Patton
  • Jimmy Reiss
  • Gary Solomon
  • Oliver Thomas
  • David White


We Need One Voice

New Orleanians are confirmed skeptics when it comes to issues of reforming education, smart urban planning, social justice, and healthy communities. Not because we don’t believe these are important; we just tend not to believe in the capacity of our business and political leaders to place the interests of the community in front of personal gain, petty rivalries, and parochial interests. Conversations–public and private–about the future of our city often end when someone says, “yeah, that’s a nice idea but the politicians (or other elites) don’t want that to happen.”

True, much that needs to happen if our city is to thrive does threaten the interests of many of those who got us into this mess in the first place. As a first step in the rebuilding, we need to acknowledge this fact. Then, we need to send the message that we expect the political and civic leadership to be a unified bloc to support our community’s efforts in both word and deed.

The process that began last week at the Louisiana Recovery and Rebuilding Conference here in New Orleans is the first truly significant step in the right direction we have seen since Katrina made landfall. What made it unique was a combination of factors we have never before seen in our city:

  • Bringing serious and committed professionals from across the country and internationally to educate citizens on the issues facing us
  • Inviting hundreds of citizens from all across south Louisiana to dream big about the future of our state
  • Providing transparent and democratic methods for evaluating and prioritizing the principles developed by the group.

Skeptical that it was really transparent and democratic? What if we told you that even City Council members who violated the democratic participation protocol were brought back to order and not permitted to undermine the process? One City Council member chose to leave after being informed that grandstanding commentary was not welcome.

The Recovery and Rebuilding Conference was only a first step. While there were well over 600 voices in those meetings, there were, of course, thousands more who were absent. As the process continues, those voices need to be included. But we are encouraged that the inclusion of all members of the community was one of the key principles adopted at the close of the meeting.

We are not advocating an abandonment of vigilance. It’s a long journey from general principles to implementation and much can happen along the way. But what we saw over a three-day period represents a radical departure from the status quo pre-Katrina.

There is much work to be done to rebuild our communities. We think it would be great to expend our energy implementing a vision rather than fighting the same old fights. And it is certainly time to combine these competing commissions into one inclusive body that operates under the guiding principles of transparency, accountability and responsibility to all the people of New Orleans, rather than one group at the expense of the other. There will be hard decisions to be made. But we think the first step in the recovery is acknowledging the hard facts and then speaking and acting as one community.

Preliminary list of Initial Principles as prepared and prioritized by LRRC participants [PDF]

Editorials from The Urban Conservancy


Stuck on Stupid? Maybe.

September 6, 2006
What these two disparate–and admitedly anecdotal–examples point to is something we all have known for quite some time: that if our community is to thrive, we need large-scale institutional changes to the way business is done in New Orleans. Not just a new council or a new ordinance but serious reforms that will ensure that our gains today are enshrined in law and not dependent upon the good graces of whoever happens to be in office at any given moment. Read it!

96 Degrees in the Shade

June 27, 2006
It’s hot. It’s hurricane season. It’s time for some good news. Read it!

Rebuilding Locally-Owned Businesses

February 2, 2006
As part of our efforts, The Urban Conservancy is partnering with students and faculty from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) urban planning program to determine how our vital neighborhood commercial corridors can both participate in and benefit from the revitalization of the surrounding communities. Read it!

Small Signs of Hope

“We are about to lose New Orleans.” So said the New York Times on Sunday. All over New Orleans people read the editorial and nodded their heads. They copied it into e-mails and forwarded it to friends–both here and elsewhere. “Did you see the editorial?”, we asked each other. While it certainly isn’t uplifting news, many of us were just happy that the plight of the city – and the very tenuous nature of the “recovery” – was getting some high-profile coverage. Read it!

Just and Sustainable

Without a clear vision of the future city we are trying to build, much energy and important scarce resources could be wasted pursuing competing or incompatible goals.

As a step toward addressing this glaring gap, we would like to offer one possible vision for the future of New Orleans. We believe it has merit but we invite you to improve upon it or offer one of your own using the comment function below.

So to start the ball rolling, here is our vision: In 10 years, New Orleans will be a model for a just and sustainable community. Read it!

Mr. Coats Goes To Washington

Marc Rosenblum, Tim Ruppert, and Geoff Coats – three residents of New Orleans – spent a day in Washington, DC talking with our representatives and their staffs about the rebuilding of our city. Our primary goal was to ensure that the people of New Orleans have a say in all decisions affecting our communities. Read it!


Update 4

Jun 2021

Via Biz New Orleans, article by Rich Collins.

Thumbnail Img 3034Photo credit: Thrive Works Green

NEW ORLEANS – Jerusalem Baptist Church and Stronger Hope Baptist Church, both located in New Orleans’ Hoffman Triangle neighborhood, have completed the installation of permeable paving and green spaces designed to reduce flooding during heavy rain events.

Work on the Jerusalem project was completed by Thrive Works Green, a nonprofit workforce training program.

“Our program is truly one of a kind,” said Chuck Morse, Thrive executive director, in a press release. “We use a holistic approach, walking alongside our trainees before, during and after the program to ensure their needs are met, whether it’s with a weekly stipend, soft skills, mental health support, etc. After they graduate, we connect them directly with contract opportunities.”

Read more of this story here.

Update 3

Apr 2021

2015: Underneath the Claiborne Expressway, which looms over the historic Tremé neighborhood. Photo credit: Christine Carlo, Tulane School of Architecture

The Urban Conservancy’s Amy Stelly has been fighting for the removal of the Claiborne Expressway since she moved back home to Tremé nearly a decade ago. Stelly has been struggling to get the support of local leaders for some time, but on Wednesday there was a promising development: the White House named the Claiborne Expressway an example of historic inequity that President Biden’s new infrastructure plan looks to address.

“It’s the same in many Black communities, not only in Louisiana,” Stelly said. “It’s great the federal government and this administration is recognizing that this is something that must be corrected if we are to be fair and just in America.”

Support in Washington for taking down highways or mitigating problems they caused has grown in recent years. Senate Democrats included $10 billion for highway removal in an economic justice bill introduced late last year.

“We can’t remove highways in neighborhoods that would otherwise have been very desirable and leave it to the real estate market to govern,” Stelly said. “The people of Tremé should have the right to return when it’s beautiful.”

In the news:


Update 2

Jun 2020

To the Urban Conservancy community:

The disproportionate health, housing and economic impact of COVID19 on Black New Orleanians and the heinous murder of George Floyd while in police custody remind us that structural racism is built into our society. It disadvantages people of color before they are even born.

This affects every facet of our lives, in every way. Until Black people feel safe and respected in our community, New Orleans will not move forward. Until Black people are food-, health-, house- and financially secure, we cannot achieve justice or equity and the change we want to see in New Orleans will continue to elude us.

The Urban Conservancy believes that sustainability is about more than “lasting” or “maintaining.” It means “thriving.” That means economic parity and making sure people of every race are able to go about their lives freely and without fear of death or harm.

The Urban Conservancy pledges to continue to work alongside those righting the racial injustices of the past and the present so that New Orleans’ future is safer and healthier for all.  We will continue to strive to build an urban fabric that nurtures and nourishes. We vow to be thoughtful and purposeful in our strategy and actions to ensure justice beyond inclusion.

Update 1

Nov 2016

Today, the City of New Orleans in partnership with StayLocal, released a Road Construction Toolkit for New Orleans Businesses. The toolkit features important contact information, practical tips and technical assistance so businesses can continue to thrive during road construction. At this time, the City is gearing up a $2.4 billion capital improvement program to repair and rebuild 400 miles of roads and subsurface infrastructure. Read the full press release here.