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Preserving New Orleans' Architectural Heritage

The riddle of what New Orleans will look like in the future may be a little closer to a solution. The 17-member Bring New Orleans Back Commission unveiled its plan for rebuilding the city last week.

The plan includes proposals for new development, parks and a light rail system. It also calls for a redevelopment commission to oversee rebuilding. The plan angered residents whose neighborhoods were left out of the plan, which is subject to approval by the mayor, the state and the federal government.

The issues of which areas will be rebuilt and a proposed four-month moratorium on construction proved to be the most contentious.

But rebuilding is already going on in parts of the city -- some of it coordinated by local and national preservation groups. New Orleans has the highest concentration of historic architecture per capita in the nation: 33,000 buildings in 20 historic districts.

The city's most famous areas remain largely intact after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But its less well-known historic districts -- many of them working-class neighborhoods -- were ruined by the storm and later floods.

Many non-profit groups are working to ease the financial burden of rebuilding. Volunteers for the National Trust for Historic Preservation canvass neighborhoods to talk to people about the value of their homes, and teach them how to combat mold or remove sheetrock themselves. The trust is also lobbying Congress for $60 million in grants for homeowners.

Others, like New Orleans' Green Project and the ReBuilding Center, based in Portland, Ore., are helping homeowners recycle old building materials and training volunteers in salvage and preservation techniques.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eve Troeh was WWNO's first-ever News Director, hired to start the local news department in 2013. She left WWNO in 2017 to serve as Sustainability Editor at Marketplace.