When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, water surged and broke through the London Avenue Canal floodwalls, flooding Gentilly, a middle-class, racially diverse neighborhood of 31,000. With $141 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition, the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) prioritized a new community adaptation program (CAP) in Gentilly, the site of the city’s first comprehensive “resilience district.” In addition to financing green infrastructure improvements in the public realm, the city and NORA incentivized homeowners to install and manage natural stormwater management systems on their properties. Some 140 income-eligible homeowners are each expected to benefit from up to $25,000 in green infrastructure systems that will better manage stormwater, including trees, rain gardens, and bioswales. With engineering firm APTIM, landscape architecture firm Design Jones, LLC, led the rollout of one of the community planning and design efforts in Gentilly, partnering with some of the homeowners to design water-absorbing landscapes. Dana Brown and Associates led a second team’s effort in the community.
New Orleans government officials now believe the city cannot blockade itself from surging stormwater behind higher or stronger levees. The city must instead learn to live with water and adapt in times of flooding through decentralized, community-level green infrastructure.
The CAP not only gives new assets to low-income households in the form of beautiful, functional green infrastructure improvements, but also improves their resilience to future floods. Together, these projects are designed to reduce Gentilly’s overall flood risk.
Through community engagement sessions, homeowners met with landscape architects at Design Jones, LLC or Dana Brown and Associates to learn about the different green infrastructure options available for their properties, such as permeable paving, rain gardens, bioswales, bioretention cells, filtration planters, infiltration trenches, dry creek beds, trees, and rain barrels.
Landscape architects then partner with the homeowners to identify and design the best solutions for their properties. Homeowners also learn how to maintain the green infrastructure systems after installation is complete.
The goal of CAP is to demonstrate the benefits of reducing stormwater runoff on privately owned residential property. NORA also seeks to support the city in broader workforce development efforts—creating a new local green infrastructure industry that can build and maintain these vital systems throughout the city.
- Community Adaptation Program, New Orleans Redevelopment Authority
- Gentilly Resilience District, City of New Orleans
- Money available for Gentilly homeowners to reduce stormwater runoff, NOLA.com
- City Unveils Green Infrastructure Grant Program for Gentilly Residents, New Orleans Public Radio
- Evaluate, discuss, and plan for future climate impacts on vulnerable communities.
- Address environmental justice explicitly in all design and planning efforts, including priority placement of green infrastructure.
- Incorporate green infrastructure into all new and existing urban and suburban development.
- Prioritize preservation and enhancement of tree canopy.