Understanding Change

New Orleans is changing.  Whether we believe it or not the racial lines have shifted, the class and income lines are slowly changing and the future of New Orleans is at stake!  Hurricane Katrina has left a significant mark on the face of this glorious city.  To some while horrible and destructive, it brought opportunity and purpose, and while to others it brought death and tribulation.  New Orleans is seeing changes on every front. Improving conditions in America’s urban neighborhoods requires a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics that divide residents along racial, ethnic and class lines.   So what does the future of New Orleans hold?  It certainly looks like many metropolitan areas not only here but across the U.S are coming to look more like the European cities of a century ago.  The same way Baron Haussmann’s redesigns (both good and bad) changed the face of Paris in the 1860’s,  cities are moving towards a more centered vibrant street life as the center of daily life.  Food, shops, and stores are more and more the anchors of these centers.  This area seems no different.  For the past few decades an unmitigated reversal is taking place, not merely as a type of gentrification but a type of demographic transposition that is slowly reshaping the make-up of the American city.  Unfortunately, it will be the people with substantial earning power or ample savings that will be able to remain, while the urban poor will be slowly pushed further and further outside the city lines.  As with Paris and many other European cities could the future of American cities be slowly pushing out the poor by way of slowly rising rents, increasing property values and fewer and fewer options for the people that have made the city what it is?  While this sounds impossible here in New Orleans, and New Orleans’ natural immunity to so many of the nation’s trends and changes has always protected it from the national progression, is it possible that Hurricane Katrina reconfigured the city and its immunity to a point-of-no return.  Is New Orleans starting to see the first signs of these changes masked in the excitement of new shops and product availability?  When looking at the census data already available these trends seem possible…even here. (Greater New Orleans Community Data Center: http://www.gnocdc.org/ for neighborhood data profiles, economic changes to southern Louisiana and the changes in population density post Katrina.)

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