The Unified New Orleans Plan, also known as UNOP, was the City of New Orleans’ comprehensive post-Katrina planning effort, featuring the work of eleven local and national planning teams working on the city-wide, district and neighborhood level. DPZ participated as neighborhood planners in Districts 1 and 6, working in the French Quarter, the Old Commerce District and Gentilly. The team’s plan addressed the Districts’ immediate infrastructural and planning needs after the storm, offered rebuilding strategies for both individual homeowners and the neighborhoods at large and addressed longstanding fundamental planning challenges for the area.
District 6 is a large community of many small neighborhoods, most of which were built in the mid twentieth century. Often considered a microcosm of New Orleans, the area is remarkably diverse socially, economically, ethnically and racially. It includes some of the highest, as well as some of the lowest ground in Orleans Parish. It includes waterfronts that are in superb condition and highway frontage that is in decay. It includes a few of the wealthiest, as well as some of the poorest residents of New Orleans, and it also includes some of the oldest and newest residential subdivisions, with houses ranging from historic 19th century homes to contemporary suburban models. The District also has a substantial institutional presence, including the University of New Orleans and Dillard University, among others.
The District was heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina, and almost all houses received moderate to severe flood damage, primarily from the long-term water inundation. The high levels of damage prohibited many homeowners from returning to New Orleans, despite many neighborhoods’ popularity before the storm. According to the New Century New Orleans Master Plan, District 6’s pre-storm population was approximately 40,500, with approximately 18,500 housing units. Since the storm, those numbers changed dramatically, and, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, the post-Katrina population is estimated to be under 10,000.
As neighborhood planners for District 6, DPZ first returned to Gentilly, where the team had held a first-of-its-kind post-Katrina planning charrette six months prior. Endeavoring to produce a full roster of small-scale, implementation-oriented rebuilding strategies, the team generated specific codes and regulating plans for each neighborhood within the District. In addition, the team developed plans for several catalytic projects intended to revitalize the region as a whole, including a Town Center on the site of a ruined strip mall. Proposed rebuilding mechanisms, including a Neighborhood Planning Center and a Community Development Corporation, also offered specific methods to expedite the reconstruction process and improve communications between homeowners, developers and local institutions.