Monday, October 20, 2008

Highways and Neighborhoods

The transformation of live oak-filled public boulevard space along Claiborne Avenue into the roadway deck for elevated Interstate I-10 dramatically altered Sixth and Seventh Ward New Orleans, much as the routing of Interstate I-35 affected the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota and Interstate I-275 impacted West Tampa, Florida. All three areas were home to tight-knit, fiercely independent and mixed race communities. Rondo's identity as a neighborhood was nearly erased by the highway construction; today it is largely known through oral histories and individual memories. West Tampa is being altered once again, this time by I-275 expansion for Florida's burgeoning population of motorists. To read a blogger's perspective, click here.

Thirty-eight years ago, the New Orleans Tambourine and Fan Club, a neighborhood-based cultural organization associated with the Sixth and Seventh Wards, initiated a revitalization effort for the Claiborne Avenue Corridor. By November 1973, the Claiborne Avenue Design Team (CADT) was formed and began a three-year multi-disciplinary planning process to revitalize the corridor that involved architects, engineers, community members, and social scientists. Participants included Ashe Cultural Arts Center co-founder Douglas Redd (1947-2007) and musicians Alvin Alcorn (1912-2003), Harold Dejan (1909-2002), and Freddie Kohlman (1918-1990). The team focused its attentions on potential development between Poydras Street and Peoples Avenue, and published its comprehensive plan that included supplementary architectural drawings, graphs, maps and statistical data. The CADT I-10 Multi-Use Study may be found in Tulane University's Special Collections Division, Louisiana Collections [NA 9127.N46 C 55] and in the Hogan Jazz Archive.

At the time the team conducted its surveys of CADT area residents, 62.8% of those responding selected recreation for children as the preferred use for the land. When asked the question, "If you had the choice, what three things would you select for general improvement of your community," the primary responses were:

Recreation for children 25.8%
Better streets 24.5%
More jobs/employment 17.4%
Misc./other 6.7%
DK/NA 14.7%

Photograph above: Claiborne Avenue Corridor, July 1966. From CADT I-10 Multi-Use Study. New Orleans: The Team, 1976, p. 44.

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