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Planning Perspectives


This paper examines the emergence, development and abandonment of ‘new town’ communities in eastern New Orleans in the half century after 1957. Containing about two-thirds of the land area in the New Orleans city limits, much of it wrested from swamps using emerging drainage technologies, eastern New Orleans promised municipal leaders, planners and citizens an alternative to crowded city and sprawling suburb. This paper also considers how planners and many local citizens viewed planned communities in the eastern stretches of the city as an antidote to population exodus from New Orleans. It explores the influences, design characteristics, social planning aspirations and environmental challenges that informed new-town planning in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite the collapse of the federal Title VII programme in the mid-1970s, New Orleans leaders and developers continued to seek ways to develop this land, ultimately fashioning a suburban landscape that attracted a socially diverse population seeking upward mobility. With the end of the city’s oil boom in the mid-1980s, New Orleans East began to suffer public perceptions that it was becoming blighted. Following Hurricane Katrina twenty years later, the tattered suburban landscape prompted not just despair but determination to rekindle the spirit of a planned, idealistic community.

Original Citation

Souther, Mark. 2008. "Suburban Swamp: The Rise and Fall of Planned New-Town Communities in New Orleans East." Planning Perspectives 23, no. 2: 197-219.