On January 13th's immersive experience, we set about a community-led exploration of adaptive reuse in the context of New Orleans’ evolving relationship with development, tourism and community activation. We steered away from hospitality trend-spotting, and rather curated the day to reflect the multidisciplinary voices contributing to the city’s cultural future.

artist Brandan Odums in front of one of his pieces at StudioBe. Photo by Dante Nicholas

We packed a lot into an afternoon. We started with a deep dive into the struggle to revitalize the once vibrant Black neighborhood, Claiborne Corridor, wiped out by the I-10 interstate. We visited the stunning restoration of 100-year-old Catholic estate as Hotel Peter and Paul. From there we met artist Brandan Odum in his street art warehouse and community center, StudioBE. Finally, we were ready to enjoy cocktails at the gallery of local art entrepreneurs Where Y’Art.

After much walking and talking, questioning and looking, we could almost see your brain synapses firing. What new insights surfaced? Here is the footnotes version, compiled from all of your feedback.

First rule of adaptive reuse: we all want something better, as long as it works for the people who were there from the start.

Intentions are Everything

New Orleanians are proud of their local culture, and rightfully so—they want to protect it. But protection doesn’t have to mean exclusion. Many of you were struck by how very different businesses with very different audiences, like StudioBE and Hotel Peter and Paul, could happily co-exist within walking distance as advocates for one another.

African-American & woman-owned Loretta's Authentic Pralines "represents the spirit of New Orleans and the heart of resilience" in the Marigny. Photo by Dante Nicholas

Buildings should be the homes to our stories.    

Smart developers realize that preserving the legacy of old New Orleans is key to successfully navigating the city’s future. Though often costly and logistically complex, finding ways to preserve original sites and stories pays off. Clearly, honoring this deeply resonates with visitors seeking “authentic” experience, but it also results in loyal local patronage.

Hotel Peter & Paul Founder Nathalie Jordi reading from a compilation of local tips and tricks found in every guest room. Photo by Dante Nicholas

It’s never just an interstate

As one participant said “you can’t understand a market until you go there”. Even more so, you can’t understand the lasting implications of development until you have to live with the change. Let the story of devastation caused by an interstate be a warning to us. In a time of emerging needs and behavior, new technologies, and a shifting economy, it is critical to not just involve local communities in decision making that affects their neighborhoods but let local leaders drive toward the future, defining the appropriate partnerships, investments and engagement.

local entrepreneur, Keith, shares his vision for a reborn Claiborne Avenue. Photo by Dante Nicholas

Get out and about

It's so simple but so essential. Moving around - in the fresh air, in spaces we've never visited before, outside the conference room - can be the best way to gain a fresh perspective. We process new information using all of our senses. Perhaps this is a good reminder to carry with us on the daily.

on foot outside the Treme Petit Museum. Photo by Dante Nicholas