March 06 2013

Rethinking an Urban Freeway in New Orleans, Louisiana

North Claiborne Avenue

Oak trees and street scenes painted on the support pillars of the I-10 overpass on Claiborne Avenue remind New Orleanians that the street was once a tree-lined commercial corridor. Today, the neighborhoods surrounding Claiborne Avenue are a portrait of disinvestment and decay, a decline coinciding with the erection of the I-10 elevated expressway that looms over the street. Like in so many American cities, this area of New Orleans has suffered from the creation of a freeway that cuts through cities. It’s a case of public dollars creating freeways that devalue private real estate.

A study in New Orleans aims to re-imagine Claiborne Avenue as a transportation corridor that anchors a more livable community. Funded by federal and local government grants as well as private funding partners, Livable Claiborne Communities is a study that underscores how transportation affects land uses, economic activities and environmental conditions. As teams of architecture and urban planning professionals outline possible scenarios for Claiborne Avenue, principles of community organizing and outreach are being invoked to solicit a wide array of public participation.

Claiborne at Columbus

The study does not just aim for freeway teardown, but seeks to present multiple strategies for revitalizing the Claiborne Avenue communities. While many scenarios are part of the study, demolition of the I-10 elevated expressway into a surface-level boulevard has great appeal for many, gaining interest and support from the Congress for New Urbanism. As this idea gains traction, one lesson about the importance of process is becoming valuable and clear. While a teardown would not automatically rejuvenate the North Claiborne area, the study’s participatory process is presenting an exciting opportunity.

As Livable Claiborne Communities attempts a thorough process of community engagement with many stakeholders, experts and residents, a real opportunity is rising to set a vision and a direction for neighborhood revitalization. Someday, when the condition of the elevated freeway necessitates costly repair or alternative action, the discussion and organizing that happens as a result of this study may push forward a progressive plan that rejuvenates the neighborhood.

How else can neighborhoods, cut off and devalued by urban freeways, work to become vibrant communities again?

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 6th, 2013 at 9:36 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Infrastructure, 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.


3 Responses to “Rethinking an Urban Freeway in New Orleans, Louisiana”

  1. NOLA and the reimagining of I-10 | Better Roads Says:

    [...] is part of a blog post by Jessica Yoon, a native Oregonian who lives in New Orleans. She holds a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies from [...]

  2. Pseudo3D Says:

    Hi. Recently, I’ve been creating a post on my blog that discusses this very topic (as well as a similar boulevard-to-highway in Austin with very different results), and I think you’ve got the Claiborne Freeway (and by extension other highways) all wrong.

    You see, I think your argument is fundamentally wrong because it assumes correlation is causation. My argument is that New Orleans was in decline even before the highways came, and other neighborhoods, without highways, greatly declined. A less-than-visually-pleasing elevated freeway becomes a scapegoat, and some pretty renderings promising to bring back a bygone era will make the neighborhood spring back to life.

    Even if you did manage to get it done, it would raise land values, allowing gentrifiers to swoop in and alter the neighborhood in their own image, forcing older residents out. That’s the best case scenario. There is no going back.

    I discussed the Austin example, with this summing it up: “Why is it so different? Because Austin became a better city, growing and developing with new industries, in other words, a healthy city. New Orleans, on the other hand, is a moribund Detroit of the South that has been in decline for decades.”

    (I should also bring up that I used your photograph with permission, though I will remove it if you are opposed to it)

  3. Pseudo3D Says:

    Fixed a rather embarrassing and offensive typo, it was late, I was tired. Sorry if you caught it!

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