Planning for 2018

Imagine a tower along the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain standing 1100 feet high (37 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower). Its sleek column is decorated with art depicting New Orleans’ past and at night it shimmers with lights celebrating the town’s vibrancy. From the top, viewers (on a clear day) can see the chain of bays of which Lake Pontchartrain is a part as well as the winding river defining a crescent.

At the tower’s base, the lakefront is busy with activity day and night, every day.

There’s an amphitheater, a playground, bars, restaurants and lounges. This structure, New Orleans’ Tricentennial Tower, will be an international landmark and a symbol of the world’s most re-energized city.

We are only a decade away from 2018, the Tricentennial of the city’s founding. In 1718 Canadian Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville founded a city at a location between the Mississippi River’s big bend and Lake Pontchartrain. Two and a half centuries later, historian Hodding Carter would describe that town as, “an amoral queen among American cities, a charming Latin shrug at a runaway moon, and one of the greatest of world ports.”

Forty years after Carter’s words, New Orleans is still generating poetry and description. Ten years from now, the runaway moon should be illuminating a city as festive as it is great.

There are already some efforts toward doing something special for the 300th anniversary. A group of business leaders operating under the name Horizon Initiative has set ambitious planning and development goals for the city to reach by 2018. City Park’s redesign plans include making over the front part of the area into a multi-use space to be know as Tricentennial Plaza.

We suggest that the town’s plans include one really big extra step and that is to erect a landmark that will be revered and respected, a symbol of a beloved city that during its first three hundred years experienced joy but also unequaled hardship, yet that has perservered.

We urge that the monument should be on the lakefront for two reasons: One, while the presence of the river was an obvious factor in the decision to build a city, the lake that would serve as the city’s back door is often overlooked in telling the city’s story. And the other is that the lakefront is woefully undeveloped. Such a project, we hope, would stimulate thought about creative uses of the city’s shoreline.

Making the tower slightly higher that Paris’s grand landmark would acknowledge the city’s French influence but also symbolize American expansionism.

Since the tragic events of 2005, most of the emphasis in the city has been on rebuilding; by 2018 we should be past that. Let’s make it a time to be talking about greatness rather than mere survival.

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