ERROL LABORDE: Down with City Hall, up with a jazz park

Because of the media inflamed hysteria about the opening of hurricane season and the coverage of the mayoral inauguration, a story that might be one of the years’ most important did not get the attention it deserved. I am talking about the plan to redevelop the area in the vicinity of the Superdome into a Jazz district and park.
That part of town has been the target of ambitious planning before.
The current civic center that includes City Hall and the Civil Court building was a 1950’s vision of the future back when postwar attitudes did not have much sentiment for the past. Unfortunately, the boxy buildings never aroused much sentiment and seemed out of place for the seat of government in a city known for its exquisite colonial architecture.
If the plan does all it is supposed to do, the civic complex will be razed and in its place will be a park and a Jazz auditorium. The park complex would also provide a tailgate party parking area for the Superdome.
In a city where the football team is named after a jazz song, the combination of jazz and football could be combustible.
City Hall, we suspect, will relocate to one of the barely filled high rise buildings along Poydras; the Hyatt Hotel, whose owners are pushing and partially backing the idea, will be the center of an inspired urban hub,
If this happens, finally New Orleans will have done something meaningful with Jazz. Nashville has already provided an example with its downtown revival. There, an ultra-Modern Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is the keystone for a complex that includes an arena (NHL and concerts), a new symphony hall, a classy Hilton and a football stadium (NFL) within walking distance. In the center is a park-like green space for doing green space type things. The complex is on the edge of the city¹s old town, as ours would be.
Truth is, what was developed within the dome’s neighborhood never worked like it should, through the area has the potential to be so much better.
Strategic Hotels & Resorts, the company that owns the building that the Hyatt manages, is based in Chicago. The company has seen the success of Chicago’s Millennium park. We can learn from other cities- plus, if politics doesn’t interfere, we have the history and culture for our development to be much more interesting. I know, much can go wrong, plus there is the question of what happenes to Armstrong Park which was also supposed to be a Jazz park. But sometimes there are things that people just want to believe in, and I want to believe in this.

Just thinking about New Orleans
Errol Laborde
(504) 828-1380 ext 208 elaborde@renaissancepublishingllc.com

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