After a lot of elbow grease and extraordinary efforts, we finally broke ground on our Community Development and Climate Action center in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. When I visited last week, the site was busy with bulldozers, pile drivers, and other tell-tale signs of construction. This signifies the next step in our building of our Holy Cross Project, a sustainable village in one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.
Just over six years ago, this was an empty 1.3 acre site (home to an orphanage over 100 years ago) in the Holy Cross neighborhood. Soon it will be an 8000+ square foot facility that will educate the public through our visitor’s center and offer other important services for the neighborhood. It is part of the vision I put forth for Global Green just after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — to adopt a neighborhood, among other important goals, and ensure the green rebuilding of New Orleans. Now, with four of the five homes sold and occupied (the fifth one remains open to visitor’s center until the community center is completed), and the community center under construction, we are well on our way, but we still need your help.
We need to raise another $100,000 to complete and outfit the center to help host educators, students, and researchers and teach them how the homes, the center, bioswales, and rain gardens are performing, as well as create interactive educational features both in and outside the building to educate tens of thousands of visitors. In the 8000+ square foot facility, we will have the visitor’s center and Global Green’s offices, along with many features to benefit the Holy Cross neighborhood, including an ATM, corner store/fresh food vendor, community meeting space, and passive survivability features (for first responders in case of future storms).
How did the Holy Cross Project come about? We called upon the design community to help us realize our vision for this sustainable village through a design competition whose jury included local leaders as well as internationally known architects like Thom Mayne, not to mention Brad Pitt as the competition chair. Then, I made the commitment for Global Green to actually build the winning design — to include single-family homes, apartments, and a community center — which is rare for open design competitions.
There have been challenges. There have been complications. We have jumped through funding and financing hoops and found ourselves unraveling bureaucratic red tape. But we always had the support of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association and we never wavered in our belief that this would benefit the community.
We began by building the five homes and I’m happy to report that all four homes we put on the market have been sold to families now enjoying the benefits of their LEED Platinum, solar-powered, energy-efficient houses. When I was there last week, one of the homeowners said her electricity bill was only $26 for the month, when her friends complained of $150 to $300 energy bills that same month in their similarly sized homes.
In the last weeks, we have met on-site with our developer, city officials, and construction teams and we see the sights and sounds of progress every day — the next steps in taking plans on paper and creating a place for the community.
Now, we look forward to completing the center, and hopefully breaking ground on our third and final phase: the 18-unit multi-family apartment building that will allow very low-income families to rent healthy, green apartments, some for less than $200 a month. I’m pushing hard to get the final financing in place by December 15.
The whole project has been enormously catalytic, and a source of great pride for the neighborhood. Here’s a short video you might enjoy that tells the story, and here’s a link to where you can make a donation to help us complete the vision.