Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: December 12th, 2007 by Walter Gallas 3 Comments

 

With last week’s report that the demolition of four public housing developments—B. W. Cooper, Lafitte, C. J. Peete and St. Bernard—could begin on December 15, the temperature rose this week among groups trying to delay or even stop the demolitions. I joined a diverse group of ministers, community members, activists and public housing residents at a meeting of the City Council, where we were allowed to address the Council even though the demolitions were not on the agenda. My remarks to the Council pointed out that there had been no meaningful consideration of alternatives in the federally mandated consultation process with HUD and the Housing Authority of New Orleans about the redevelopment plans.

Unfortunately, any good will that the group might have gained from the Council was lost when a number of group members refused to disband after our time was up and tied up the chambers with chats of “No demolition!” until police came to break things up.

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Last Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel on Track for 2010 Reopening

Posted on: December 10th, 2007 by Margaret Foster

 

Mason City, IowaWork is under way at the last remaining hotel Frank Lloyd Wright designed, the Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa, which has been closed since 1972.

Wright designed the Park Inn Hotel and adjacent City National Bank in 1910.

In September, Wright on the Park, Inc., the organization that is overseeing the work, bought the City National Bank, coming a step closer to fulfilling its mission to "own, restore, preserve, and maintain" the hotel and bank building.... Read More →

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Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: December 10th, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

I attended along with a number of other PRC staffers the official public unveiling of housing designs for Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right” project in the Lower 9th Ward. Thirteen architectural firms from around the world submitted designs, from which a homeowner can choose. The plan is to build at least 150 new houses for the owners of houses lost nearest the levee breach, to raise money internationally to fill the owner’s financial gap, to begin construction in the spring, and to have some houses built by next summer. For a look at the designs, and to learn more, go to www.makeitrightnola.org.

The media attention was phenomenal, not just because of Pitt’s drawing power, but also because of how the project was tied in with an outdoor art installation of 150 full-size house forms covered in hot pink fabric scattered about the site of the future new houses. This installation is illuminated at night and is open as a drive-through tour through January 7.

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Notes from the Field: New Orleans

Posted on: December 7th, 2007 by Walter Gallas

 

I spoke at a very poorly-run public meeting hosted by the state on its plans for a new medical center in downtown New Orleans. We were allowed to make comments and pose questions after the various presentations, but we were told that no questions would be responded to at the meeting! When someone asked if the answers would be posted on a web site, the answer was again no.

Nevertheless the consultants insisted they were there for “public input.” It was a frustrating meeting to say the least, and it only added to the public’s anger and suspicions that this was a done deal. The plans come out of classic 1960’s urban renewal models—clear-cut 37 acres of the National Register Mid-City neighborhood, displace homeowners and businesses and then build a new facility on the land. Any pretense that there would be serious consideration of alternatives was lost, when the consultant from U.S. Risk Management systematically eliminated all but the urban renewal alternative in her presentation.

While the state officials tried to keep the discussion separate from the plans of the Veterans Administration on another 34 acres in Mid-City adjoining the state site, they were unsuccessful. This week it was reported that the Mayor and the VA have signed an agreement whereby the city agrees to assemble the land for the VA hospital and present it to the VA in a “construction-ready state.” FEMA’s Public Assistance Officer was one of the presenters. He was so careful to talk around FEMA’s role in this (or not), that his comments were incomprehensible. And when an audience member asked a question about Section 106, the consultation process for historic properties, no one answered it (in accordance with the ground rules of the meeting!).

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Oregon Railroad Tries to Get Back on Track

Posted on: December 7th, 2007 by Preservation magazine

 

Mt. Hood RailroadFor a century, the sturdy little Mount Hood Railroad carried lumber, fruit, and passengers through Oregon's Hood River valley, 60 miles east of Portland. But a year ago, disaster struck. November rainfall, surpassing 15 inches, broke records. Part of Mount Hood's Eliot Glacier broke away, releasing torrents that poured off the mountain and damaged local trails, roads, and bridges—and the railroad. The force of the floodwaters literally changed the course of the Hood River at milepost 15, leaving 150 feet of track hanging in the air.

"The track is in place, but there's no land under it. It looks like a suspension bridge," says the railroad's general manager Michelle Marquart. For the past year, the railroad company has been working with an engineering firm to get planning and permitting in place to restore the tracks. "We have a very solid plan, but it is a very expensive plan," says Marquart.... Read More →

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