NEW ORLEANS — Christmas came early for the Lower Ninth Ward.
Tuesday, local leaders including New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell broke ground on $7.2 million worth of road and drainage projects.
Reverend Willie Calhoun from the New Israel Baptist Church says he hasn’t seen this level of investment in the Lower Nine in more than 16 years.
That’s when Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters destroyed most of the homes in the neighborhood.
“The streets were so bad; you’d tear your vehicle up coming up and down,” Calhoun said. “With this infrastructure now, developers and people come in to redevelop this area.”
Burnell Cotlon owns the only remaining grocery store in the Lower Ninth Ward.
“It is a God send, to finally have this type of funds and attention being brought to my community,” Cotlon said. “It feels so good.”
The stretch of St. Claude Avenue that runs through the neighborhood was recently designated to participate in the state’s Main Street Recovery program.
Local leaders say that designation, along with the millions of dollars in new road and drainage projects, finally puts the Lower Ninth Ward on a solid trajectory for growth in the new year.
“I’m very, very excited,” Cotlon said. “Anything that can bring the Lower Ninth Ward back up to the 21st century, I’m all for it.”
The main street program offers grants up to $10,000 for either interior or exterior building rehabilitation projects.
“It allows the coordination between the state, the city and the local groups down here to come together to help businesses to enhance that area,” Calhoun said.
He hopes that will spark additional investment in an area frozen in time for far too long.
The city expects the 17 infrastructure projects to be completed in the Lower Ninth Ward by next summer.