Demolition begins today on city’s last traditional public housing project
The era of vast public housing developments made up of multi-unit, monolithic brick buildings is coming to a close in New Orleans.
Demolition of the Iberville housing complex, the city’s last traditional public housing project still standing, will begin today. The 72-year old development is being razed as part of a multimillion-dollar plan that city officials say is necessary to revitalize the Treme neighborhood, Canal Street and the Central Business District.
Fifty-nine of the 75 Iberville buildings will be demolished. The Housing Authority of New Orleans plans to preserve and renovate the remaining 16 historic buildings, which were constructed in the 1930s and opened in 1941.
The demolition is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative, HUD’s latest program aimed at transforming distressed urban areas and public housing into mixed-income neighborhoods with links to schools, transportation and jobs.
HANO and the city received a $30.5 million grant from the HUD in 2011 to fund the Iberville rebuild, which calls for a one-for-one replacement of the development’s 821 units with new or renovated structures both on the Iberville’s current site and in the surrounding neighborhood.
The grant will cover only a portion of the full development plan, but it helped to encourage other investment.
“The revitalization of the Iberville housing site and the implementation of HUD’s $30.5 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative will reenergize Iberville and Treme,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. “The construction of new, low, moderate and market rate housing complete with retail, school and public space improvements will strengthen these important neighborhoods that are at the heart of our city.”
Demolition is expected to conclude in October.
The first two phases of construction will bring 227 rental units, including 81 public-housing units, 97 market-rate apartments and 49 workforce units, defined as affordable housing for households with income less than 60 percent of the area median family income. The full project calls for 880 total units, including 304 public-housing apartments, 315 market-rate homes and 261 workforce units.
The hulking brick structures that once defined the site will be replaced by a mix of new multi-family buildings and townhouses designed to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood.
Construction on the first two phases will end in December and will begin on the remainder of the site in late 2014, a spokeswoman for HANO said.
The plan also includes the addition of 112 housing units for elderly Iberville residents at the Texaco Building on Canal Street. Construction on that project began in November.
The total redevelopment also includes investment in initiatives like apartments, schools and food stores in a 300-square-block area within the boundaries of Rampart Street, Tulane Avenue, Broad Street and St. Bernard Avenue. The complete project has a $600 million price tag and will be paid for with a mixture of funds from HANO, HUD, FEMA, the city and state.
“Iberville is a very significant link in a much bigger picture of the revitalization of downtown New Orleans, which can be stimulated by the investment of transforming a public-housing development into a mixed-income community,” HANO administrative receiver David Gilmore said. “And we are excited about expanding the scope of public-housing redevelopment beyond the bricks of a building, while integrating revived infrastructure, linking educational and workforce opportunities, and making social services available to the entire community.”
The New Orleans City Council gave the go-ahead for the demolition in May. HANO has been prepping the site since then, and last month began salvaging historical elements of the 59 buildings, including roof tiles and iron work, the housing authority said.
HANO said in a statement that it has hired 30 “at-risk-youth” and young adults to assist in pre-demolition activities as part of its recently launched Iberville Employment Training Program. The participants are either Iberville residents or their family and friends, HANO said.
About 250 families have been relocated from the Iberville, HANO said. The remaining 100 families will be moved by January. They will continue to receive case management and support services, such as mental health care and adult education, HANO said.