In the News

New Orleans Mission begins restoration project


New Orleans Mission Long in need of repair, the century-old building in Central City that houses the New Orleans Mission where more than 200 members of the homeless community are cared for daily, is getting a facelift. Repairs expected to total $6 million are now underway. ( ) By Marilyn Stewart 
on July 12, 2015 at 10:35 AM

Long in need of repair, the century-old building in Central City that houses the New Orleans Mission where more than 200 members of the homeless community are cared for daily, is getting a facelift. Repairs expected to total $6 million are now underway.

Built in the early 1900s, the building is the former home of the A. Levitan Furniture Store. As preparations were made to remove the exterior façade, some original windows, complete with furniture ads, were found intact.

Restoration will return the building to its 1920s look. 

With neighbors’ help, row of empty lots becomes a small, tidy woods

Katy Reckdahl|Special to the Advocate 

July 1, 2015


Ten years ago, a family headed by two doctors owned a row of three houses along a strip of Chantilly Drive in New Orleans East.

The homes were bordered by a canopy of trees and a neat brick wall with lights on the top. Often, the air would be filled with the sounds of neighbors laughing and splashing in a swimming pool behind the fence.

But the houses and the wall were torn down after the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The trees died after sitting in the salt water that covered this part of eastern New Orleans for weeks after the storm.

So when Lawrence and Barbara Banks returned from Katrina exile and looked out their front window, they saw nothing but devastation. The lots were empty and quiet. Often, the foliage was wild, Barbara Banks, 65, recalled.

“After Katrina, it was nothing but a big sea of grass and weeds,” she said. “And every day, I’d walk outside and think of what used to be there.”


When Lawrence Banks walked out of his New Orleans East home, he could barely stand the sight across the street – five empty Hurricane Katrina overgrown lots, with weeds, rodents and garbage.

"It offered me just a depressing view of my neighborhood," he said. "I believed there could be something better."

So three years ago he started writing letters to NORA, the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which owned the properties. He hoped to gain control, for he had a vision of an urban forest.

"Of some nice trees, trees that would change colors in the fall."

Banks and his wife didn't qualify through any programs to buy the properties, but NORA took his idea and ran with it, and today his urban forest now sits along Chantilly Drive.

Officially it's the NORA Green Project. There are 216 trees, eight different species and an in-ground irrigation system where each tree has its own supply, a limestone pathway, benches and a wooden fence.

Urban forest revitalizes overgrown, neglected lot in New Orleans East


Urban Forest
Lawrence and Barbara Banks stand in front of the Urban Forest, 216 trees that have been built on a lot in New Orleans East that was neglected after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Banks dreamt up the project and the New Orleans Redevelopment Agency helped make it a reality. (Photo by Shelby Hartman, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
By Shelby Hartman, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 
on June 30, 2015 at 2:41 PM, updated June 30, 2015 at 3:14 PM

A stroll down Chantilly Drive in New Orleans East is like walking onto the film set of a 1960s suburban family sitcom. One-story brick homes with trim lawns and white mailboxes make it easy to forget the neighborhood was all but destroyed in the flooding after Hurricane Katrina.

Soon, the end of the block will have something more atypical: a canopy of red, gold and orange leaves inspired by the Northeastern fall.

Pieces Coming Together for Unique Jack & Jake’s Public Market in Old New Orleans Schoolhouse


From the street it still looks like a schoolhouse. But inside the former Myrtle Banks Elementary at 1300 O.C. Haley Boulevard, the pieces coming together for the planned Jack & Jake's Public Market augur a very different future for the historic Central City building.

Slated to open within the next six weeks, this multifaceted project combines elements of a grocery store and a farmers market. It will include two distinct restaurant concepts, a bar, an oyster bar and a coffee bar. And it will have a large teaching kitchen and numerous event spaces. It's all under the banner of Jack & Jake's, a New Orleans-based wholesaler that supplies food from regional farmers and fisheries to schools, hospitals and other institutions.

"I don't call it a grocery, I don't even like to call it a market, it's a food hub," said company founder and CEO John Burns Jr. "It will be the retail side of what we do."

It's certainly intended to serve as a grocery, though built to different specs than the conventional supermarket. It's one where locally-sourced fresh foods predominate, where pantry staples play a supporting role (to round out the shopping basket with baby food, say, or foil wrap) and where frozen foods are minimal.

It's also a market with restaurant and café seating built across its various indoor and outdoor areas and with its own chef at the helm in the kitchen. Ben Thibodeaux, most recently executive chef at Tableau, is overseeing the restaurant menus, the take-home fare at the retail counters and other culinary aspects of the operation that covers some 23,000 square feet.



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