Author Wayne Curtis on New Orleans: "If you look at it as a 10-to-15-year rebuild arc, things are in pretty good shape."

Posted on: September 5th, 2007 by Margaret Foster

An online extra: Q & A With Wayne Curtis, author of "Block by Block: wo years after Katrina, a new New Orleans is finally taking shape," in the September/October issue of Preservation magazine.

Q: How have you seen New Orleans change since you moved there last October?

It's been slow. When we were first looking for a house, there were commercial strips where they had boarded up stores like Taco Bell and Rite Aid. They're still pretty bleak, but it doesn't look like a disaster zone anymore; it looks like any other rundown American city. For post-Katrina New Orleans, that's an improvement.

The second anniversary was interesting. People who fly in and don't really know it say it's a mess, but there were a lot of parts that were a mess before the flood. There's the upbeat reporting and the doom-and-gloom reporting. The perception when you talk to people who just read the AP stories is that things are still in horrible shape.

I'm more optimistic, and I think that was reflected in the story. There's a lot happening on the street level, bit by bit. My perception is that it'll take 10 years. If you look at it that way, we're 20 percent through a rebuild, and we're in good shape. There are a lot of [journalists] who are always incensed that the city hasn't rebuilt yet. That's sort of disingenuous because it's only been two years. If you look at it as a 10-to-15-year rebuild arc, things are in pretty good shape.

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