New Orleans is in the midst of a slew of initiatives and projects ranging from Jonathan Tate’s Starter Home* series to the build-up of Tulane’s campus, and, of course, the sweeping renovation of the Superdome. Now the city is slated to join the nationwide trend towards megadevelopments with the 39-acre River District, a new 2.4 million square-feet mixed-use district upriver from New Orleans’s Crescent City Connection Bridge
The project was awarded to the River District Neighborhood LLC by the Ernst N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority Board back at the end of March, and Gensler’s Houston office is taking the lead on the design of the River District in collaboration with local-firm Manning Architects. Further project partners include Stantec, Stratum Engineering, Gibbs Construction, amongst many others.
In its proposal, the River District Neighborhood noted that the project will include over 1,000 market-rate residential units, 450 workforce and affordable housing units, a 750,000 square-foot corporate campus, as well as a number of cultural attractions, retail and dining, hotels, public parks, art installations, and the Lousiana Civil Rights Museum.
According to ENR, the 875,000-square-foot first phase of construction is scheduled to kick off this year and will focus on road and sidewalk construction and other infrastructure improvements, as well as the museum, nearly 100,000 square feet of retail, and two hotels. The first phase of construction is expected to last upwards of two years and should wrap up in the fall of 2023. The second, more substantial 1.5 million-square-foot phase, will pick up steam around that time and include the district’s corporate campus, residential units, and further hotels.
Although massive, the proposal for the River District does attempt to connect to the city at large through several planning features, namely the potential $40 million extension of the Riverwalk streetcar line into the area, a number of protected bike lanes, as well as pedestrian-friendly street layouts.
Similar to other cities across the country, longtime residents of New Orleans are increasingly subject to displacement due to the forces of gentrification. And, perhaps to deflect criticism of the project, the developers note that approximately 30 percent of retail space will be reserved for disadvantaged business enterprise, also known as DBEs, and that the River District Neighborhood LLC counts 27 percent African American equity ownership as well as 18 percent women equity ownership.