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How’s it going, Lower Ninth Ward?

Theresa Ramisch
New Orleans

The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and Rita. A foundation by Brad Pitt and Frank Gehry redeveloped the area. Is it working?

The Lower Ninth - district of fallow lands. Before 2005 there was none. Photos: Theresa Ramisch

The Lower Ninth Rebirth tour is a bike tour through the district Lower Ninth Ward in the east of New Orleans, organized by the Confederacy of Cruisers. No other neighborhood was hit as hard as this by Hurricane Katrina. While the 2016 ASLA Meeting presents different solutions for resilient coastal landscapes, discusses current challenges and new best practices at the final day of 2016 ASLA Meeting, the Topos Magazine skipped the program for some hours and went on the bike tour – not only to hear what happened to the city but rather to see it.

Until 2005 the Lower Ninth Ward was a completely developed residential neighborhood of New Orleans with grocery stores, saloons, schools, streets and sidewalks. But when Hurricane Katrina made landfall just east of the city, multiple breaches in the levees resulted in catastrophic storm surge floods. The district was completely flooded. At its lowest point, the neighborhood is four feet below sea level – these areas were most devastated by the storm. In five minutes the water rose up to 15 meters in certain places. Thousands of people lost their homes – most of a lower income class.

The evacuation went slowly, the federal government and the municipality were unable to react fast and efficient enough. When Hurricane Rita hit one month later in 2005, the Lower Ninth Ward was flooded again. Afterwards 41 non-profit organizations came to work in the district. Without any development plan, the first houses were rebuilt again. Not until 2014, nine years after the flood, the City of New Orleans announced “The City of New Orleans will soon begin repairing Katrina-damaged roads and infrastructure in your neighborhood”. Only 36.7 percent of the population came back. Till today there is no grocery store in the district.

More info on the bike tour