Everyone seems to agree on the need for mixed-use, affordable housing.
Experts: Renewal starts with the roofs
"We could make New Orleans like an Afro-Caribbean Paris," Kabacoff said. "The beauty of Paris is you can walk 50 or 100 blocks and you never run out of something interesting to see."
Kabakoff specializes in large complex deals and his projects have tended toward gentrification. Another approach is advocaqted by National Trust President Richard Moe, who advocated salvaging older houses, especially the ones that were solidly built in the first place. He was in NO this week to show off a home that had been flooded to the rafters and is now almost ready for occupancy.
Experts show off example of saving old New Orleans
"It's faster, less expensive, more environmentally sound, so everything argues for preserving these houses unless they absolutely can't be saved," Moe said. "We should make every effort to save them."
. . . . . . .
His first stop was [Bari] Landry's home in a mostly lifeless neighborhood, but one loaded with historic bungalow and shotgun style homes built largely of cypress more than a half-century ago.
. . . . . .
The National Trust has such technical advice posted on the Internet _ a resource Landry used while working on her home. She also received help form the local Preservation Resource Council.
"Since I've been back, I've found a lot of people getting misinformation," said Landry, a mother of two teenage boys who's temporarily moved in with her parents in suburban Metairie. "If the plaster is solid to the lathe and they tell you you have to take it out, they're wrong. It will not absorb mold like Sheetrock and it doesn't melt away in water like Sheetrock."
Landry had flood and homeowners insurance and said her adjusters have promised all of her restoration work will be covered. Her story could potentially be repeated thousands of times over to the benefit of not just the city but the whole country, Moe said.
The contrast between these two approaches was highlighted two years ago when Kabakoff decided to bring a Wal-Mart into the heart of New Orleans as part of a larger development project. Moe and other preservationists found themselves in opposition, though they had been supporters of Kabakoff's previous projects.
Thinking outside the big box
But even Moe is emphatically unhappy with the St. Thomas redevelopment plan.
"We have a strong disagreement with Pres on the Wal-Mart proposal," Moe says. "To put a 220,000-square-foot Wal-Mart in the middle of the Lower Garden District we think is just flat wrong. And I'm sorry he's doing it.
"It doesn't fit. It's vastly out of scale. It's the kind of thing you see in the suburbs. This is not to say there shouldn't be those kinds of retail outlets in the city, but they ought to be of a scale and size compatible with everything else that's there."
Kabacoff argues that Tchoupitoulas Street is not part of the Lower Garden District in any aesthetic or social sense.
Big development or preservation? How about the lower income people living in those neighborhoods?
Barbara Major, a frequent spokeswoman for the former residents of St. Thomas, is bemused by it all.In the end, it is, always was, about money.
"To see this whole thing play itself out, it was like one big joke after another," she says. "All of a sudden you have the preservationists after the preservationists. And I'm like, what the hell is this all about?
"They tried to frame this battle as if it were about the people of St. Thomas. It was never about that. It was about who was going to control this strip of land. It's always about the land struggle."