Some New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina are moving back to their old neighborhood. But the brand new, modern, self-contained homes with “state of the art fixtures” in a mixed-income area look nothing like what was once the city’s largest federally-funded public housing projects, which were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Renamed Harmony Oaks, the new residential community replaces the pre-Katrina C.J. Peete public housing projects, commonly known as the Magnolia projects, popularized by hip hop songs. The community is a result of a partnership between the Housing Authority of New Orleans, local citizens groups, the federal government and private developers.
Although their move back “home” comes about two months later than the scheduled December date, residents are excited.
“I am thrilled to be home again,” said Triege Kerry Cotton, who was raised in C.J. Peete. “But it’s not just about moving back, it’s about moving up. That’s what Harmony Oaks is about for me and my family.” Cotton, a teacher and single mother of two boys, received the keys to her new market-rate unit the day before New Orleans won the Super Bowl.
Reborn as Harmony Oaks, the community will eventually include 460 attractive, privately managed housing units that will serve lower-income people as well as attract residents who are able to pay market-rate rent or afford moderately priced houses. The cornerstone of the new community will be a centrally located Campus of Learners comprised of a new state-of-the-art K-4 school operated by KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program), recreation center and a health suite.
“This mixed-income model has proven successful in cities nationwide. We’ve seen residents live well, vulnerable people become self-sufficient and improve their social and economic standing, and surrounding neighborhoods prosper. Better communities make for better lives,” said Richard Baron, chairman and chief executive officer of McCormack Baron Salazar.
According to the City of New Orleans, about 350,000 formerly displaced residents have returned since to the city since the storm. Tens of thousands of others, though, have opted to stay in the cities they moved to after the storm hit.
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