DONOVAN JOINS STATE AND LOCAL LEADERS TO FORMALLY OPEN MARRERO
COMMONS ON THE SITE OF THE FORMER B.W. COOPER Nearly $160 million investment breathes new life into a Katrina-ravaged neighborhood
NEW ORLEANS - In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the B.W. Cooper Public Housing Development in New Orleans became uninhabitable. On that very site today, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan joined New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Senator Mary Landrieu, Congressman Cedric Richmond and Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) Administrative Receiver David Gilmore to cut the ribbon in front of one of the 50 new homes that are part of the first phase of construction for the Marrero Commons mixed-income community. B.W. Cooper is the last of "the Big Four" public housing developments in New Orleans being redeveloped after Hurricane Katrina rendered them uninhabitable.
"Three years ago, we broke ground on a dream that has now come true," said Donovan. "A lot of people put in a tremendous amount of hard work to get us to this day. Today we make good on a promise the Obama Administration made to the residents of this great city: to build back better and stronger."
Developers HANO, KBK Enterprises of Columbus, Ohio, McCormack Baron Salazar of St. Louis, Mo. and the B.W. Cooper Resident Management Corporation shared in the excitement of officially opening the first 50 homes for families and another 126 homes that are nearly completed. Twenty families have already moved into the new one- to four-bedroom homes - including five former B.W. Cooper residents. By July 2013, there will be 410 homes that will serve nearly 300 low- to moderate-income households and 116 market-rate rental households. This includes 42 accessible homes for mobility impaired residents and nine additional accessible homes for hearing/visual impaired residents. Six of the accessible homes are included in the housing opened today - three physically accessible and three hearing/visual accessible. The estimated investment for this redevelopment was nearly $160 million that came from multiple sources, including HUD, the State of Louisiana, the City of New Orleans, HANO and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"BW Cooper has been home to thousands of New Orleans families for the last 70 years," Mayor Landrieu said. "And today, we proudly stand here as this community is reborn as the Marrero Commons, giving its residents a modern, safe place to live. It is an improved model for providing affordable housing to a mix of incomes and represents a public-private partnership that brings together private equity and government resources that will improve the lives of its residents."
"Marrero Commons serves as model of how public housing can be responsibly rebuilt into a quality mixed income community. Shelter is a basic human need, and this project will help families in Central City have access to quality, affordable housing," Sen. Landrieu said. "I commend HUD, the state of Louisiana, city of New Orleans and the developer for their work on this essential project."
"Today we celebrate another major milestone for our residents as we welcome Marrero Commons to the HANO community," said HUD-appointed Administrative Receiver David Gilmore. "This site will always carry the history of B.W. Cooper but with a modern, Victorian and classical style, and amenities that our residents have wanted and deserved for many years. The project also represents a major accomplishment for many others in New Orleans as B.W. Cooper continues to pave the way for residents to speak up and stand firm on contract accountability, leveraging jobs and training opportunities on HANO construction sites."
The new development will include a management office and business center for the B.W. Cooper Resident Management Corporation, which has been instrumental in keeping former residents informed and offers supportive services to former residents and a day-care for the community.
Then and Now
The redevelopment of B.W. Cooper and Lafitte, another one of the Big Four public housing communities that Hurricane Katrina severely damaged, were in jeopardy prior to the Obama Administration due to the fall of the housing market and economic downturn, which led to significant construction delays. As a result, the developers were at risk of losing the Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone tax-credits that are used to build affordable housing to revitalize communities. Thankfully, with the support of many, Congress approved an extension of the construction deadlines allowing for the redevelopment of these two communities.
Marrero Commons was named B.W. Cooper at the time of Hurricane Katrina, but began as Calliope Project when 1,474 public housing units were built between 1942 and 1954. By the time Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, many of the units were unoccupied and in desperate need of repair - with less than 963 units occupied. The units that remained were further damaged by Hurricane Katrina and water as a result of flooding in the aftermath of Katrina.
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