Gentrification in New Orleans


Erron Thomas, News Editor

New Orleans is a fantastic city—arguably beyond fantastic. There are acres worth of reasons why this is the case. While politically Louisiana is a Republican state, the city of New Orleans is considered fairly liberal due to the diversity of its various communities. The culture flowing through all parts of the city gives one reason to think New Orleans is more liberal than its surrounding areas.

Gentrification is a frequently discussed topic today, especially in the New Orleans area. It is easy for citizens to see the changes in the Lower 9th and other areas in the East vicinity. Newly renovated houses and luxurious new restaurants such as St. Roch Market are just two examples of the change in the environment. There are plenty of mixed feelings about these developments. Many life-timers of the community feel as though wealthier white transplants are barging in on their neighborhoods.

Change is often good and neighborhoods diversifying is a sign of the times changing. Yet, the dynamic between the two races seems a bit awkward. It shouldn’t be so uncomfortable because there has been some homogenization of the races. Mid-City and Gentilly are prime examples; they are very diverse neighborhoods where you will see a variety of races hanging out. This makes me wonder why the experiences I have within these new establishments make me feel uncomfortable.

A very good example of this is the new St. Roch Market. The building is located right on St. Claude in the center of the Bywater area, not far at all from lower income communities, which tend to be predominantly African American. St. Roch Market is clearly on the luxurious side — with very high ceilings, elegant plating and silverware, it’s clear to the average eye that this isn’t your basic eatery. The market has plenty of vendors, making the location seem like some sort of luxurious food court. Although it’s smack in the center of the Bywater, on a typical day in the market it would be a surprise to see more than a handful of African Americans partaking in the food options. Although the restaurant is an attempt to bring the community together, it is clear that the market is catering to a specific niche.

While so much change is happening in the New Orleans area, the dynamic in which the two races operate still has awkward undertones. African Americans living in the area around St. Roch perceive an elitist persona from the business’ white patrons.

This is the one thing I want to change about New Orleans. The possibilities that this city could achieve with a united community are endless. Mid-City is a working example of this; some argue it has its own unique culture outside New Orleans culture. Though it is possible, goals like that are harder to achieve because of the history of the city. African Americans may always feel some kind of way towards whites, which could prohibit great strides in society, which is why I want it to change. This city is already an amazing one with semi-separated races. The possibilities are endless if we were a truly united community.

Photo from 2007 of the original St. Roch Market appears courtesy of @anthonyturducken via Flickr Creative Commons