Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Orleans and Her Message to Woodbury

Architecturally, there is nothing new or modern about Magazine St.
and yet it remains vibrant and alive, teeming with
active shoppers, diners, employees, and residents!
I consider myself lucky. I have very good friends that live in New Orleans, and that means I get to visit... often. I am always astounded at the popularity and walkability of the city. I find the streets, even the infamous Bourbon Street, much cleaner than your average street say in Philadelphia. People say Hi to you on the streets and many folks can live, work, and play without stepping in a car and for those that do, traffic and parking are rarely a problem due to their traditional street grid system that offers numerous routes to get where you need to go. One can easily jump on the Streetcar down St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District and ride it all the way to the Central Business District or French Quarter, all for a whopping $1.25!

Many correctly attribute New Orleans popularity and success to their love of heritage tourism and historic preservation which creates a magical atmosphere almost everywhere you look. From duplex style shotgun houses to the grandest of Queen Anne Victorians, most buildings are beautifully arranged, decorated and cared for. Even historic buildings that suffered significant damage during hurricanes are lovingly restored and brought back to life! On a single short walk one day I came across: 1. a house having tar roofing shingles removed and replaced with slate, 2. a circa 1800's ornate porch being restored and, 3. what appeared to be a dilapidated shotgun house being repaired... Amazing. (See photos below). Even with New Orleans sub-tropical, humid environment, most houses still retain their original wooden clapboard siding... Not a vinyl-sided rancher in sight!

Victorian wraparound porch restoration
Double shotgun restoration. This same house in NJ would probably have been torn down years ago... sadly.
tar shingles to slate!
How do they do it!? My friend explained that even during the dark age of American zoning which led to sprawl development (1940's - 2000's), New Orleans officials, residents, and business owners realized they were surrounded with unique historic architecture and made it their mission to preserve the subsequent charm that brought so many to the area to live and visit. And it still shows! According to the last census, New Orleans had the 24th highest growth rate in the U.S. and was the only urban center in the top 25! Wall Street Journal ranked them #1 Most Improved Metro in the USA; Brookings Inst., the #1 Growing Metro Area for Employment; Forbes: the #1 Metro for IT Job Growth in the USA; Chief Executive magazine, the #1 Most Improved State in the U.S. and Business Facilities, the #1 State for Economic Growth Potential! 9 million visitors spent $6 billion in New Orleans in 2012! The equation outlined in the April 2013 issue of Preservation in Print (their local preservation magazine) is as follows:

Fabulous city + Attractive neighborhoods = More jobs

More jobs = Revenue for better city services + Better quality of life for all

Is there a message for Woodbury here? All I can say is that Broad Street prior to 1940 had buildings to rival the most expensive homes in New Orleans today; I'm talking $6 million dollar homes! Buildings in Woodbury that were torn down for gas stations, parking lots, and strip mall style development in the name of modernization and "progress," buildings that if were still standing today would go far to improve quality of life for current Woodburyians. Even though it's too late for these particular buildings, the message is to embrace the remaining examples of traditional development (the buildings that make us unique) and recognize the difference it could make for our last vestige of downtown life if we kept and restored them. Please let's not make the same mistakes today in the name of false progress for more ratables.

If you ever get a chance to visit New Orleans, you will instantly understand where I'm coming from. I highly recommend it. Until then, sit back and enjoy some photographs. Keep in mind that everything pictured here is just a block or two away from shopping, public transportation, restaurants, and workplaces; streets not unlike Broad Street potentially.


embracing natural imperfections. this is out front of Anne Rice's
former home, adding so much charm
Our very own corner of Broad and Delaware, now Woodbury Crossing,
once looked like this, balcony, doors, windows, brickwork, people and all.
Even large banking conglomerates get the point. Here is
Capital One's branch along St. Charles.. nice adaptive reuse!
I love how green the city is, literally!