North Carrollton Sav-A-Center Re-Opens: An Important Step for Mid-City and New Orleans
Since the early 1990's I have preached (nearly literally) that I believed the adaptive reuse within the Warehouse District coupled with the re-development of the Lower Garden District/former-MICO Railyard site/St. Thomas held the key to the future of New Orleans over the next twenty years leading up to the city's 300th anniversary in 2018. I still maintain the revitalization of the expanse from the Pontchartrain Expressway to Jackson Avenue is a fundamental puzzle-piece to the city's future, but the MANMADE-induced flooding post-KTMB has forced a re-examination and re-definition of this stance. Post-KTMB I now feel the rebirth of Mid-City has a greater importance for New Orleans for both symbolic and practical reasons. I honestly believe the fate specifically of Mid-City will determine the post-KTMB destiny of the City of New Orleans. Mid-City's central location, it's wide-variety of housing stock, it's historically-significant architecture, it's location on the Canal Street Streetcar Line, and its proximity to recreational and cultural assets such as City Park, Bayou St. John, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), and The Fairgrounds led to its resurgence in the years pre-KTMB and will again spur it's rebirth. Because of Mid-City's location at the convergence of the Metairie, Bayou St. John, and Esplanade Ridges and that most of it's houses were constructed in the traditional New Orleans vernacular (thus being raised off the ground), not every structure in Mid-City was catastrophically impacted by the flooding similar to homes in nearly all of Lakeview, most of Gentilly, and the majority of New Orleans East. Thus, Mid-City has the opportunity to rebound relatively quickly compared to these other parts of the city.
In order for Mid-City (or any other previously-flooded New Orleans neighborhood) to begin to emerge re-inhabitable, first off utility services must be re-activated: electricity, gas, water, sewer, phone, etc. Without these--or minimally electricity and water and sewer--no one can even consider living in a particular area either in an undamaged home, a slightly/moderately damaged home, or in a FEMA trailer if they opt for that choice (assuming FEMA can manage to get the trailer to their property and get them the keys and get them hooked up to the aforementioned utilities--at a mind-blowingly expensive cost). Once the utility hurdle is accomplished, the next ingredient towards re-population is the re-establishment of everyday support services such as nearby grocery stores, drug stores, hardware stores, restaurants, bars, etc. A handful of retail establishments in Mid City re-opened before January, and more have opened in the first three months of 2006. Two weeks ago, however, a major step was taken in Mid-City in mid-March . . .
The North Carrollton Sav-A-Center, renovated and re-branded as a Sav-A-Center Fresh Market (no doubt to compete with an aggressive Whole Foods), reopened (as well as their location at Airline Drive/Labarre Road in Old Metairie). The building took in three to four feet of water, but only a KTMB-flooded out car in the parking lot (see picture) reminds you of that fact as the place is spotless and appears brand new. Meanwhile, the adjacent Chapter 11 Winn-Dixie's Mid-City store one block away remains boarded up with no real signs of life.
Yesterday, I drove by the former Whole Foods location on Esplanade Avenue and there is significant progress to report on that project. The owners of the closed-for-now Lakeview Fine Foods (but expanding to include the former West Marine space) on Harrison Avenue purchased the former Whole Foods location in June 2005. According to this story the store was planned to be open in September 2005, but for obvious reasons did not. Work has proceeded on both the interior and exterior of the building and from looking inside the windows appears to be nearing completion. There are signs posted on the doors and windows requesting employees for open positions, so I assume it's to open fairly soon.
Here are some pictures of the re-opened Mid-City Sav-A-Center Fresh Market: