Options explored for Claiborne corridor

It might be the most used street in the city, according to officials, but its potential just hasn’t been met.

That’s why city leaders are now in the process of preparing to do a comprehensive study on the Claiborne Avenue corridor, a 3.9-mile portion of the busy roadway that, in total, runs from the Jefferson to St. Bernard parish lines.

Dubbed “Livable Claiborne Communities,” the study will focus on the area from Napoleon Avenue to Elysian Fields Avenue and between Broad Street on the lake side and to Danneel Street, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue on the river side. It will look at transportation and neighborhood revitalization with examinations of everything from economic development to walkability to the possible removal of the elevated Interstate 10 that soars over Treme.

The federally and locally funded $2.7 million study will be completed in August.

Three goals of the plan will be livability, or quality of life issues, sustainability and equity, such as access to education and jobs for all residents, said Austin Allen, with DesignJones, a local urban planning agency involved with the study.

Since the Claiborne Avenue Corridor traverses so many different neighborhoods, city officials said they needed to hold a series of meetings to introduce residents to the idea and to prepare for their feedback since each area will have different needs.

In Treme, for example, there are many who for years and at similar meetings have said that they would like to see the elevated Interstate 10 torn down in hopes of restoring the neighborhood that they say the interstate destroyed. In Broadmoor, at the opposite end of the corridor, the needs are largely different than transportation, with drainage, housing stock and quality-of-life issues a priority, officials said.

Speaking to a small crowd that gathered Wednesday night at Andrew Wilson Charter School in Broadmoor, one of five neighborhood and regional meetings held since Saturday, Bill Gilchrist, director of the mayor’s Office of Place-based Planning, said that ultimately there will need to be unity in the plan to make it successful while taking into account the unique qualities of each neighborhood.

And, he added, the work is more than just discussing the removal of the I-10 overpass, though that likely will be the largest focus as the final document is prepared and debated.

“This is a fairly large piece of geography,” he said of the corridor that extends past its namesake avenue. “We’re looking at the broad context. We’re interested in the full breadth of this corridor.”

Planner David Dixon, who led the team that was responsible for the city’s master plan that proposed removing the I-10 Claiborne overpass, said the final corridor plan will need to focus not only on what makes the avenue better for commerce and transportation but what makes the surrounding neighborhoods better for citizens who live there.

“This is not an infrastructure project,” he said. “It’s a people project.”

Housing needs to be connected with jobs to ensure strong communities that also are fully populated, he said. He said that’s been something of a challenge since Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city, driving away many residents and leaving some areas a patchwork of new or remodeled homes and vacant lots.

The Claiborne Corridor had between 22,000 and 23,000 households before Katrina, he said; today, the figure might be closer to 14,000, with about 5,000 new homes being planned or built.

Another key goal of the study, he said, is to ensure neighborhoods like Broadmoor, which have rebounded well since the storm, keep the momentum going behind their progress.

“More than anything, we want to strengthen and preserve neighborhoods like this,” Dixon said.