At the end of March 2007, the City of New Orleans, through its Office of Recovery Management, announced target redevelopment zones where funds would be concentrated in order to stimulate investment in key business corridors. NORI's Spencer Cowan, Bill Rohe and Oscar Barbarin spoke on post-Katrina environmental concerns at the Institute of African American Research's 2007 International Scholar's Conference, "Race and Environment," convened at UNC on April 2-3, 2007.
On April 25, 2007, NORI received a letter of support from the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association expressing their appreciation of NORI's contributions and hope for an ongoing relationship. The Gentilly Civic Improvement Association is an umbrella organization, formed after Katrina, uniting the area's neighborhood associations.
NORI met with the Office of Recovery Management and others about acquiring the data necessary to create GIS maps.
NORI's Joanne Caye worked with community leaders in District 6 on the establishment of information centers. The Pontilly Recovery Center, located at 3869 Gentilly Blvd., Suite C, started holding community meetings. Plans for a second center around the Paris and Mirabeau Avenue intersection are under discussion.
Bill Rohe, Spencer Cowan and a planning student gave a presentation on the use of clustering scenarios and GIS mapping as tools for community redevelopment at the 2007 Planners Network Conference held in New Orleans from May 30-June 2.
The UNC Department of City and Regional Planning offered an interdisciplinary workshop that involved students in NORI's work in New Orleans, giving them a firsthand opportunity to participate in neighborhood revitalization strategies in the Gentilly area. After listening to community leaders, the students decided that data collection would be their primary focus. The data would be used in making maps that would show neighborhood conditions on a parcel by parcel basis.
Students prepared a neighborhood audit that they took with them on two trips to New Orleans. Selecting Gentilly neighborhoods that were not already recovered or excessively damaged, they collected information for all or parts of the Oak Park, Virgil Park, Vista Park, Mirabeau Gardens, Indian Village, Edgewood Park, Gentilly Heights Vosco, Gentilly Heights East and Gentilly Terrace and Gardens neighborhoods. As students conducted their audits, they interviewed residents to get a sense of the experiences of those who chose to return. Students also met with community leaders to discuss the project, build relationships with residents and ensure the sustainability of the effort.
After collecting the raw data, students started work on making the maps. These maps will display building and lot conditions, whether houses are occupied and other indications of recovery. The maps will be shared with Gentilly neighborhood associations, leaders and residents.
In addition, students created a homeowners' information guide, a list of online resources, a rebuilding manual and a Gentilly neighborhood service directory for returning residents. Law students working with the Community Development Law Clinic assisted the local recovery center with issues relating to its application for tax-exempt nonprofit status. At the end of the semester, the workshop students prepared a report detailing their accomplishments and laying the groundwork for the next group.
In addition to continuing the work of the fall workshop, students in the spring updated and expanded the data available for mapping. Two groups of students went to New Orleans: the first met with neighborhood leaders and community residents to present the initial set of maps, to describe the underlying data and explain their analysis. The second group delivered new and improved maps and made a final report, including recommendations that promote planned development. Students also trained residents on how to use the information collection tools so they can keep track of neighborhood changes over time.