Make It Right – New Orleans

In some ways I consider myself lucky that I have never visited New Orleans – this way I don’t feel so much loss at what was destroyed. I get to keep an internal abstraction of the place that I don’t have for places that I am more familiar with. But what has really been so stunning is how long it has been and how little has been repaired there. So I was glad to see this article about some new rebuilding efforts going on. With Brad Pitt involved:

A year after the New Orleans storm, Pitt was horrified at the lack of progress in repairing the damage it wreaked, especially in the devastated African-American populated Lower Ninth Ward. "I couldn’t believe nothing was going on. I recalled the pictures of people on roofs, begging for help and I couldn’t believe that this was our America."

Determined to put his dual passions for architecture and environmentally-sound development to work, he and several partners started the Make It Right Foundation, whose aim is to build 150 homes for residents of the lower Ninth Ward – one of the hardest hit during the ’05 hurricane. He invited architects from around the globe to New Orleans to submit sustainable – and affordable housing solutions. Pitt convened a meeting with the architects, residents and community leaders to establish guidelines for rebuilding the neighborhood. "I never had any idea that so many people would show up for this. The model works and it’s replicable."

The foundation has it’s own site where you can see what has been done so far. It’s really pretty fascinating. What I also like is that Mike Holmes is involved. Mike is a General Contractor from Canada who has a show called Holmes on Homes, and is a huge consumer advocate for quality construction and quality homes. One of the big worries I always have  when I hear about rebuilding projects is about the quality. Mike being involved gives me good pause. Too much stuff gets put together is such a shoddy and haphazard manner, and it never really does anyone any good. These designs are all meant to be sturdy, affordable and sustainable. Looking at the plans, most of the designs have raised foundations, similar to what has been done in hurricane areas of Florida, to help minimize future flood damage.

All the designs are fascinating, and should give the owners real pride of ownership. Rebuilding community pride is just as important as rebuilding the houses themselves. The last thing needed is a shoddy public works project to replace the neighborhood, which would only run the risk of degenerating into crime and chaos, as so many have. People who have pride in their communities are motivated to not let that happen.

Nice. I hope it works out.