March 20 2013

Rails to Trails in New Orleans: Connecting Neighborhoods Using the Lafitte Greenway

Galvez at Lafitte

Between the historic French Quarter and Bayou St. John, a former shipping canal and railway sits idle, presenting a tremendous opportunity for redevelopment into recreational space. Plans to convert this right-of-way into an open space greenway are finally close to reality as city officials, urban planners and neighborhood activists prepare to move forward with the project.

The Lafitte Greenway is a planned 3.1-mile long bicycle and pedestrian trail with open space and recreation areas. Plans for the greenway incorporate partnerships with local groups who may seek to add amenities such as sand volleyball courts, community gardens and gathering places. Such amenities may not be part of the initial design of the greenway, but could be added and maintained by individual organizations in collaboration with the city. In an area where trains used to pass through on a daily basis, New Orleans may soon have a vast stretch of open green space right in the middle of an urban setting.

The Lafitte Greenway will provide more than just green space for the city of New Orleans. As people from many areas of New Orleans use the pedestrian and bicycle trail, it will be a connective thread through multiple, adjacent neighborhoods. The continuous, public open space will act as a corridor that connects neighborhoods as diverse as the eighteenth-century French Quarter, Treme, Mid City and the mid twentieth-century suburbs of Lakeview.

Economic investment and commercial development can be expected to follow the opening of the Lafitte Greenway. Businesses along the corridor will adapt to appeal to cyclists and pedestrians and new development may be attracted to the area as a result of the recreational resource. With the conversion of the unused railroad right-of-way into something of value, New Orleans can leverage the Lafitte Greenway to catalyze neighborhood revitalization.

Lafitte GreenwayMany cities and governments own stretches of linear right-of-way as a result of former railway lines and transportation pathways. Many successful examples of rails-to-trails conversion into recreational space already exist, including the Tammany Trace trail just north of New Orleans and the widely celebrated High Line in New York City. As cities consider what to do with these linear tracts of land, the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans may serve as another example of great value created from abandoned rail lines.

How else can cities make use of unused railway lines?

Credits: Photos by Jessica Yoon. Data linked to sources.

Jessica Yoon

Jessica Yoon is a native Oregonian, currently residing in New Orleans, Louisiana. She holds a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University, where she became interested in how great places can promote both equity and prosperity. She is primarily interested in how smart planning and design initiatives, combined with inspired real estate development projects, can create wonderful urban places for people to live, work, and thrive. Jessica reports on new initiatives and urban developments in New Orleans, where a fast pace of progress raises hope for a vibrant future for the city and region. Beyond her work as a marketing professional and blogger, Jessica enjoys riding her bicycle, eating her way through the city’s food scene, and listening to economics podcasts.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 at 9:35 am and is filed under Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “Rails to Trails in New Orleans: Connecting Neighborhoods Using the Lafitte Greenway”

  1. Steven Petsinis Says:

    Brilliant article, reminds me alot of the Highline in Manhattan.
    Though i think this project has the capability to achieve a hell of a lot more.
    Well Done.

  2. Jessica Yoon Says:

    Thanks Steven. I also thought of the Highline in Manhattan, although I am glad that this greenway will give me an easy way to bike in New Orleans. It makes me wonder just how many cities own linear tracts of land from former railroad lines. Seems like if many cities have this asset, we could see rails to trails projects on a huge scale!

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