History & Neighborhood Snapshot

HISTORY & NEIGHBORHOOD SNAPSHOT.

History.

Shaped by its geographic location and its history spanning back to the mid-19th century, the neighborhood encompassing JPNSI’s service area represents a vibrant, multiracial, working class community—steeped in a past rich in art and architecture, iconic business establishments, and historic educational institutions. Beginning in the 1860s, the residential neighborhood between Broad Street and Claiborne Avenue (Lower Mid- City) flourished as a multiethnic middle class community of musicians, artists, lithographers, and architects. Although the Carondelet and New Basin Canals (now Pontchartrain Expressway) were in operation by 1840, and the Tulane and Canal streetcars were running by the turn of the century, it was not until around 1915 that the poorly drained low-lying cypress swampland above Broad Street was developed following the construction of the Broad/Bienville pumping station in 1899, making the area more habitable and attractive to new residential and commercial construction. Formerly referred to as ‘back of town’, Mid-City officially received its name designation in 1923 as a result of a contest by Hibernia National Bank to promote its centrally located branch at Canal and Carrollton Avenue.

New Orleans’ most famed musician, Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, was born in the 700 block of Jane Place (originally Jane Alley) in 1901 at his maternal grandmother’s home. In 1964, Armstrong’s birthplace was demolished during the height of New Orleans’ urban renewal period to make way for the expansion of the Criminal Justice Complex.

As commercial and light industrial development along Broad and Canal Streets and Tulane Avenue thrived over the years, the residential areas of Mid-City began to descend into deterioration, mainly due to redlining and the subdivision of single and two-family houses into multi-unit structures. By 1930, the neighborhood below Broad Street started to show early signs of deterioration, with used car lots emerging on Canal Street on the former sites of residential mansions. Challenges like urban sprawl, white flight, the expansion of the medical district around Tulane Avenue and Poydras Street, and the construction of Interstate 10 further contributed to the decline.

In the 1980s and 1990s these patterns slowed, with multi-unit structures being converted back to single and two-family houses, and business de- velopment pressures leading to the development of office and commercial spaces. Forty years after its removal, the Canal Streetcar line was restored in 2004.

Today, the JPNSI community is home to one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in the city with African-Americans comprising nearly 56% of the neighborhood, whites 27%, and Latinos 15%. The community is part of one of New Orleans’ largest historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. The predominant land use in the area is one and two-family residential development with an intricate mix of multi-family complexes, schools, restaurants, churches, medical facilities, offices spaces, commercial, and light industrial uses. Renter-occupied homes are the most dominant occupancy type in the area at 76% compared to 52% citywide.


NEIGHBORHOOD SNAPSHOT.

Today, the JPNSI community is home to one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in the city with African-Americans comprising nearly 56% of the neighborhood, whites 27%, and Latinos 15%. The community is part of one of New Orleans’ largest historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places. The predominant land use in the area is one and two-family residential development with an intricate mix of multi-family complexes, schools, restaurants, churches, medical facilities, offices spaces, commercial, and light industrial uses. Renter-occupied homes are the most dominant occupancy type in the area at 76% compared to 52% citywide.


 

CURRENT NEIGHBORHOOD CHALLENGES.

Over the last decade, the JPNSI community has witnessed a number of housing changes, including the loss of much needed affordable housing in the area, increased neighborhood blight caused by Hurricane Katrina, and the construction of multiple new apartment units along and in close proximity to the Tulane Avenue corridor.

The displacement of over 600 residents below Broad Street in the lower Mid-City neighborhood for the construction of a new Veteran Affairs Hospital and LSU’s University Medical Center, speculation driven by these hospitals, and the formation of BioDistrict New Orleans, which encompasses most of JPNSI’s footprint, have increased development pressures in the area.

While there are ongoing efforts to create affordable housing since the hurricanes, 2013 American Community Survey data show that the area remains largely renters (79%) and a startlingly high proportion of them- 72%- are rent-burdened. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a rent-burdened household as one that pays more than 30% of its income toward rent and utilities. That so many households in the neighborhood are rent-burdened is not surprising given the 44% increase in rent (in addition to inflation) that the area has undergone since 2000. This rent increase is slightly higher than the City as a whole. While rents have increased, median household income for the citywide remained flat during that same time period, ramping up the pressure on families that are trying to make ends meet. In 2000, someone making the median income in the City could likely afford to live in Mid-City, spending only 20% of their income on rent. By 2013, the typical New Orleanian had been priced out of half of JPNSI’s service area and could afford to spend 30% of their income on rent only if they lived riverside of Jefferson Davis Parkway or between Tulane and the highway. Real estate prices continue to climb and one can only expect these remaining areas to soon become unaffordable as well.

JPNSI is located in the heart of one of the most ambitious revitalization and recovery efforts in the history of New Orleans urban renewal, with billions of dollars slated for multiple redevelopment projects in and around the Mid-City area. As capital and human resources are at stake, it is imperative that the community has the opportunity for effective involvement in the redevelopment of its neighborhood both now and in the future, that affordable housing is preserved for coming generations, and that the unique culture and neighborhood character of Mid-City is not lost in the race for gentrification.