Revitalizing Neighborhoods: The Warehouse District

February 15, 2012 5 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville checks out a revitalized industrial district now referred by some as the "SoHo of the South": New Orleans' Warehouse District.

About The Warehouse District (Arts District)

The French Quarter, Garden District, and Faubourg Marigny have always been great destinations for visitors to New Orleans, but the city's revitalized Arts District is giving travelers yet another reason to come to the Crescent City. This historic neighborhood - filled with amazing art galleries, fine restaurants, and world-class museums, has gone from bustling, to abandoned, and back to becoming the center of attention once again.

The Warehouse District, known today as the New Orleans Arts District, was originally established as an industrial area in the 19th century to store grain, coffee, and produce shipped through the Port of New Orleans. As commerce, trade, and industry practices evolved over time, the area's prosperity faded, and the once busy streets became eerily quiet.

The transformation from an urban wasteland to what many have called “the SoHo of the South” began in 1976 with the opening of the Contemporary Arts Center. The 10,000-square-foot complex is still entertaining and enlightening visitors today with cutting edge-artwork and an eclectic array of music, theatre, and dance performances.

Through this opening the art community saw massive potential and promise in the neighborhood. The abundant and open spaces of the warehouses there were perfect for creating, storing, and displaying artwork. Today more than 25 galleries call the district home. Most are located on Julia Street, which is also the scene of an evening gallery hop that hosts a mix of art lovers and socialites on the first Saturday night of every month.

Museums also put the roomy warehouses to good use. The National World War II Museum, one of the most popular attractions in New Orleans, features an ever-expanding exhibit space where war veterans are on hand to give tours, answer questions, or just to talk with the many visitors.

In less than three years, the attraction has hosted 1 million visitors. Other developments include a number of restaurants and cafes serving everything from stylish gourmet dishes to traditional Cajun favorites. The original Emeril's was one of the first to call the district home over a decade ago. Now diners can enjoy South Louisiana cuisine and dancing at Michaul's, fresh seafood at Rio Mar, delicious sushi at Rock-n-Sake, and drinks and music at Howlin’ Wolf.

For those seeking a cultural travel experience, the New Orleans Arts District alone is worth a trip to New Orleans.

The Contemporary Arts Center

The original Emeril's

A joint bus and streetcar stop featuring a shelter with advertising.

A full load on a streetcar traveling through the Warehouse District.

The Lafayette Hotel along St. Charles Avenue

In the heart of it all, on the fashionable Saint Charles Avenue Streetcar Line overlooking Lafayette Square across from Gallier Hall, is The Lafayette Hotel. The Lafayette Hotel offers guests New Orleans style charm in its 24 king rooms and 20 suites. A 1916 historic landmark, from Old World architecture, French doors and wrought iron balconies to marble floors, polished mahogany and English botanical prints, the ambiance is luxury. The hotel combines elegant decor, generous amenities and abundant personal service to make each visit a memorable one. The Lafayette Hotel is located in the heart of the Historical Arts and Warehouse Districts. Only a short stroll away from all major attractions, it is within 5 blocks of the French Quarter, Superdome, Riverfront, and the Convention Center. Due to its unmatched service and luxurious accommodations, The Lafayette Hotel has the distinction of being a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World!

Outdoor dining adjacent to streetcar tracks along St. Charles Avenue.

The rear of converted warehousing on Commerce Street, looking towards downtown New Orleans.  The warehouse on the right has been converted into a Springhill Suites by Marriott hotel.  The building on the left is known as the Foundry.

The site of The Foundry dates back to 1719.  Governor Bienville, one of the founders of this area, owned the land originally.  He then sold the property to the Order of the Jesuits, who owned the property from 1726-1763. That year new owner Marie Saulier Duplesis bought the land for the construction of a plantation and outbuildings.  The property, with its plantation structures had several owners until 1831 when Louise Poeyferre sold off lots on the land for the construction of small buildings.

1859-1881 lent the "Foundry" property to become a small brewery operated by the Fasnacht Brothers.  In 1881 new owners, the Maginnis family, had the plantation house torn down for the erection of the first cotton mill on this site.  It remained a cotton mill until 1894, when the property was sold to George Pratt for the construction of Citizen's Bank.  In 1947, the site became home to the first of several glass companies.  The property was sold in 1985 to a machine manufacturing company.  In 2001, the former plantation site became the new home of Bella Luna Catering, "The Foundry."

Just south of Poydras Street, this block of Fulton Street has been closed off to automobile traffic and converted into an outdoor plaza surrounding by restaurants and bars.

A festival in Lafayette Square.

Lafayette Square is the second oldest park in New Orleans, Louisiana and was designed in 1788 by Charles Laveau Trudeau alias Don Carlos Trudeau (1743–1816), general surveyor of Louisiana under the spanish government. The Square was named after Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette, a French aristocrat and general who fought on the American side in the American Revolutionary War.

The park has a bronze statue of Henry Clay in the center of the park, and statues of John McDonough and Benjamin Franklin on St. Charles Avenue and Camp Street.

Gallier Hall, the former City Hall of New Orleans faces the square on St. Charles Avenue. Although the city government has moved elsewhere, the square is still used for inaugurations and civic events. The square also often hosts live music.

Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the trees in the park, with broken glass and debris from nearby buildings making the park unsafe. A group of neighborhood residents and downtown workers formed a charitable organization, the Lafayette Square Conservancy, to transform it into a premier urban space.,_New_Orleans

Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar & Restaurant at the intersection of Tchoupitous and Girod Street.

Renaissance New Orleans Arts Hotel is located in a historic warehouse circa 1910, on Tchoupitous Street.

St. Josephs Street from right to left: historic buildings converted into a bar, residential lofts, an infill hotel, and the New Orleans Convention Center in the background.

Context sensitive streetscape improvements along Magazine Street at Poeyfarre Street, at the entrance of The American Sector at the National World War II Museum.
The American Sector in The National WWII Museum puts a sassy new spin on the most popular staples of American cuisine. Old traditions become new favorites as Chef John Besh transforms hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, milkshakes and more into delicious new dishes for you to enjoy in this charming setting.

Some may wonder why the National World War II Museum is located in New Orleans, a city known for other tourism sites, but which is not usually associated with 20th-century military history. The main reason the museum is located in New Orleans is because the city was where the "Higgins Boats" vital to D-Day operations were designed, built, and tested. The museum gives extensive coverage of the "LCVP" or "Higgins Boat" landing craft used in the invasion of Normandy and elsewhere. These landing craft were designed by Andrew Higgins of Louisiana and produced in New Orleans by Higgins Industries and its licensees. Furthermore, New Orleans was the home city of historian Stephen Ambrose, who spearheaded the effort to build such a museum.

The Museum closed for three months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, re-opening on December 3 of that year. A museum banner promoted this re-opening by proclaiming "We Have Returned," a phrase the banner juxtaposed with the classic World War II photograph of General Douglas MacArthur striding through the surf on his return to the Philippines. As of 2009, the Museum was in the midst of a $300 million expansion. Expansion of the museum is reported to be resulting in significant increases in attendance at its currently six acre campus. The John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion opened on June 4, 2011, with detailed expansion plans available.

Article by Ennis Davis