Elements of Urbanism: New Orleans

April 15, 2010 30 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville explores the urban neighborhoods of the South's most walkable major city: New Orleans

Tale of the Tape:

New Orleans Population 2008: 336,644 (City); 1,189,981 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1718)

Jacksonville Pop. 2008: 807,815 (City); 1,313,228 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); New Orleans (570,445)

City Land Area

New Orleans: 180.6 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

New Orleans: -9.61%%
Jacksonville: +15.86%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

New Orleans: 1,009,283 (ranked 37 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

New Orleans: 5,101.6
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2009

New Orleans: -148,030
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

New Orleans: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (1984) - 1,100,000 square feet (this is the 5th largest center in the US)
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

New Orleans: courtyard, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Marriott, Springhill Suites & Wyndham Hotel within a two block radius of convention center.
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

New Orleans: One Shell Square - 697 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet


Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

New Orleans: Entergy (205)
Jacksonville: CSX (240), Winn-Dixie (340)


Urban infill obstacles:

New Orleans: Rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

New Orleans: The entire urban core
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:


Who's Downtown is more walkable?

New Orleans: 95 out of 100, according to walkscore.com (Poydras St. and St. Charles Avenue as keyword)
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current and original city limit boundaries over New Orleans' land area. Jacksonville's urban core is essentially around the same size as the City of New Orleans' urban core (city area west of the industrial canal).

About New Orleans

New Orleans (French: La Nouvelle-Orléans) is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana.

The city is named after Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans, Regent of France, and is well known for its distinct Spanish architecture, as well as its cross cultural and multilingual heritage. New Orleans is also famous for its cuisine, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz),and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Mardi Gras. The city is often referred to as the "most unique" city in America.

New Orleans is located in southeastern Louisiana, straddling the Mississippi River. The boundaries of the city and Orleans Parish are coterminous. The city and parish are bounded by the parishes of St. Tammany to the north, St. Bernard to the east, Plaquemines to the south) and Jefferson to the south and west. Lake Pontchartrain, part of which is included in the city limits, lies to the north and Lake Borgne lies to the east.

New Orleans Photo Tour

Green line = St. Charles Avenue Streetcar route

Red line = Canal Street Streetcar route

Blue line = Riverfront Streetcar route

Central Business District (CBD)

The center of Crescent City commerce, the CBD, is defined by its main artery of Poydras Street, which stretches from the Louisiana Superdome to the Mississippi River and includes the Morial Convention Center and Harrah's Casino. In recent years, the CBD has seen an explosion of luxury hotels, as well as a continuing restaurant renaissance.

Riverwalk Marketplace is a mall located in the Central Business District of New Orleans, Louisiana. The mall is located along the Mississippi River waterfront stretching from the base of Canal Street upriver to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It is connected to the adjacent Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel.

This area along the riverfront was long devoted to shipping. By the start of the 1980s, increased use of containers in shipping made some of the older riverfront wharfs less useful, so the Poydras Street Wharf and the Julia Street Wharf were demolished, and the land was used as part of the 1984 World's Fair. After the fair, this section was redeveloped into the "Riverwalk", an upscale mall intended to attract both tourists and locals.

On the afternoon of Saturday, December 14, 1996, the M/V Bright Field freightliner/bulk cargo vessel slammed into the Riverwalk. No one was killed in the accident, although approximately 66 were injured. Fifteen shops and 456 hotel rooms were demolished. Physical damage to the Bright Field was calculated at $1,857,952 (US). Damage to the Riverwalk, including the pier, condominium properties, shops, and hotel totaled an estimated $15 million (US). The freightliner was unable to be removed from the crash site until January 6, 1997, by which time the site had become something of a "must-see" tourist attraction. The spot where the Bright Field collided with the Riverwalk is marked on site with a plaque.

The Riverwalk closed after 2005's Hurricane Katrina due to extensive wind and looting damage. It reopened by the start of 2006, although at first with only a small number of shops in business. Additional businesses have gradually been reopening since.

Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city's public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans' streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Today, the streetcars are operated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

There are currently three operating streetcar lines in New Orleans: The St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, and the Canal Street Line. The St. Charles Avenue Line is the only line that has operated continuously throughout New Orleans' streetcar history (though service was interrupted after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and resumed only in part in December 2006, as noted below). All other lines were replaced by bus service in the period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s; preservationists were unable to save the streetcars on Canal Street, but were able to convince the city government to protect the St. Charles Avenue Line by granting it historic landmark status. In the later 20th century, trends began to favor rail transit again. A short Riverfront Line started service in 1988, and service returned to Canal Street in 2004, 40 years after it had been shut down.

The wide destruction wrought on the city by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods from the levee breaches in August 2005 knocked all three lines out of operation and damaged many of the streetcars. Service on a portion of the Canal Street line was restored in December of that year, with the remainder of the line and the Riverfront line returning to service in early 2006. On December 23, 2007, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) extended service from Napoleon Avenue to the end of historic St. Charles Avenue (the “Riverbend”). On June 22, 2008 service was restored to the end of the line at South Carrollton Avenue & South Claiborne Avenue.

Canal Street is a major thoroughfare in the city of New Orleans. Forming the upriver boundary of the city's oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter (Vieux Carre), it acted as the dividing line between the older French/Spanish Colonial-era city and the newer American Sector, today's Central Business District.

The name of the avenue comes from a planned canal which was to have connected the Mississippi River to the Congo Square terminus of the Carondelet Canal, but was never constructed. The wide median earmarked for the canal was referred to by early inhabitants as the "neutral ground", due to the animosities amongst culturally distant residents on separate sides of the avenue. The term is still used by New Orleanians to refer to all street medians.

One end of Canal Street terminates at the Mississippi River. Often called "The foot of Canal Street", at the riverfront the Canal Street Ferry offers a connection to the Algiers Point neighborhood, an older, 19th century portion of the larger Algiers area across the river. Canal Street's other terminus is in Mid-City at a collection of cemeteries. Slightly offset from Canal Street's Mid-City end is the beginning of Canal Boulevard, which extends to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain via the Lakeview neighborhood.

The street has three lanes of traffic in both directions, with a pair of streetcar tracks in the center.

Canal Street is often said to be the widest roadway in America to have been classified as a street, instead of the avenue or boulevard titles more typically appended to wide urban thoroughfares.

Warehouse Arts District

This "Southern SoHo" adjacent to the Central Business District was given a facelift for the 1984 World's Fair.  It is now an arts district, known for galleries, museums, and lofts.

French Quarter

The French Quarter, or Vieux Carre, founded in 1718 as a walled military outpost, once comprised the entire city of New Orleans. Today, the district is on the National Register of Historic Places, and its quaint streets and shuttered Creole townhouses continue to charm.

Bourbon Street (French: Rue Bourbon) is a famous and historic street that spans the length of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. When founded in 1718, the city was originally centered around the French Quarter. New Orleans has since expanded, but "The Quarter" remains the cultural hub, and Bourbon Street is the street best known by visitors.

The most popular section of Bourbon Street is "Upper Bourbon Street", an eight-block section of popular tourist attractions. Bourbon Street begins at Canal Street (across Canal is Carondelet Street in the New Orleans Central Business District). The straight street continues downriver, southwest to northeast a few blocks from and roughly paralleling the Mississippi River, and comes to its terminus at Pauger Street in the Faubourg Marigny. (In the 19th century, Pauger was named as a continuation of Bourbon Street.) Bourbon Street was named in honor of the House of Bourbon, the ruling French Royal Family, at the time of the city's founding.

The street is home to many bars, restaurants, strip clubs, as well as t-shirt and souvenir shops. The upper end of Bourbon Street towards Canal Street is home to many of the French Quarter's strip clubs. These include Rick's Cabaret, Temptations, and Larry Flynt's Barely Legal Club. Towards the central section of Bourbon Street one can find many famous bars including Johnny White's, The Famous Door, Razzoo and The Cat's Meow.

The section of Bourbon Street from the intersection of St. Ann Street proceeding several blocks northeast caters to New Orleans' thriving gay community, featuring such clubs as New Orleans' largest gay nightclub, The Bourbon Pub, and Oz. St. Ann Street has been referred to as "the Velvet Line"[citation needed], in reference to it being the edge or boundary line of the gay community in the French Quarter. Cafe-Lafitte-In-Exile is the oldest gay bar in the country and has a long and interesting history. New Orleans' most celebrated Mardi Gras event, The Bourbon Street Awards, was hosted by Lafitte's until the early 1980s when massive crowds forced them to move from Bourbon Street to St. Ann and Burgundy. The awards have now returned to the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann Streets. The intersection of Bourbon Street and St. Ann Street is also the epicenter of Southern Decadence, commonly referred to as the "Gay Mardi Gras" and attracts upwards of 100,000 participants over Labor Day weekend.

The Canal Street Streetcar, in its reconception, now includes two lines. The main line, named "Canal - Cemeteries" after the original "Cemeteries" line (and currently designated as Route 47), travels a direct route from the foot of Canal St. at the Mississippi River to its head 3 miles (4.8 km) inland. For much of its history, this area constituted the northern (lakeside) boundary of the city, which explains the density of cemeteries, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, in this area. The other, named "Canal - City Park/Museum" (or sometimes just "City Park", and designated as Route 48), begins at the French Market at the foot of Esplanade and Elysian Fields Avenues, sharing trackage with the Riverfront Line before turning onto Canal Street for most of its length. It diverges from the main trackage at Carrollton Avenue, where it turns on to N. Carrollton Avenue, ending at Beauregard Circle, at Esplanade Avenue and Bayou St. John, near the entrance of the New Orleans Museum of Art and within easy walking distance of the New Orleans Fairgrounds, site of the yearly Jazz and Heritage Festival. The Canal Cemeteries and City Park branches were originally designated as Routes 42 and 45, respectively, until January 2009, when the route numbers were changed to 47 and 48.


Jackson Brewery, commonly known as Jax Brewery by locals, is a building in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana containing shops and restaurants and primarily frequented by tourists. Constructed in 1891, it originally was the central brewery for Jax Beer, and in the 1960s was the 10th-largest brewery in the country. But in the 1970s, the company owning the brewery went bankrupt, and in the 1980s the building was purchased and turned into space for shops and restaurants.


Faubourg Marigny

Named one of America's four hippest neighborhoods by Travel+Leisure, this funky district adjacent to the French Quarter has a bohemian mix of residents, from the well-heeled to the down-at-heel, as well as interesting residential architecture.  Frenchmen Street, with its music clubs and restaurants, is the city's hottest nightlife destination.


Lush Avenues, shotgun houses, and the banks of Bayou St. John are all included in Mid-City's beautiful neighborhoods, accessible by the Canal Street streetcar.  The New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, and the mansions along Esplanade Avenue are popular attractions.

City Park, a 1,300 acre public park in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the 6th-largest and 7th-most-visited urban public park in the United States. Although it is an urban park whose land is owned by the City of New Orleans, it is administered by the City Park Improvement Association, an arm of state government, not by the New Orleans Parks and Parkways Department. City Park is very unusual in that it is a largely self-supporting public park, with most of its annual budget derived from self-generated revenue through user fees and donations. In the wake of the enormous damage inflicted upon the park due to Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism began to partially subsidize the park's operations.

City Park holds the world's largest collection of mature live oak trees, some older than 600 years in age. Its founding in 1853 also makes it one of the oldest parks in the country.

Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana.  All of these graves are above ground vaults; most were constructed in the 18th century and 19th century. Doug Keister, author/photographer of "Going Out in Style: The Architecture of Eternity" states that the custom of above-ground burial in New Orleans is a mixture of folklore and fact. The vaults are in fact more due to French and Spanish tradition than they are to water table problems.

St. Louis #3 is located some 2 miles back from the French Quarter, some 30 blocks from the Mississippi, fronting Esplanade Avenue near Bayou St. John. It opened in 1854. The crypts on average are more elaborate than at the other St. Louis cemeteries, including a number of fine 19th century marble tombs. Those entombed include ragtime composer Paul Sarebresole and photographer E. J. Bellocq.

St. Louis #3 also includes a Greek Orthodox section. The cemetery was heavily flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but its tombs escaped relatively unscathed. There was some plaster damage from debris.



Located directly across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter and accessible via a short ferry ride (free for pedestrians), this architecturally rich neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Garden District

Perhaps the grandest of New Orleans' neighborhoods, the Garden District is famous for its stately homes surrounded by expansive lawns and gardens.

Lower Garden District

The neighborhood between downtown and the Garden District proper is in transition to becoming one of the city's more desirable addresses.  The streets around Coliseum Square are lined with grand Greek Revival mansions in various stages of fix-up.  Magazine Street is a mix of upscale and offbeat art galleries, clothing boutiques, and cafes.


Uptown is filled with Greek Revival, Gothic, and Queen Anne-style mansions.  The Uptown area is concentrated around St. Charles Avenue.  Magazine Street is a shopaholic's dream, while St. Mary's Assumption Church features the shrine of Father Francis Xavier Seelos, "the cheerful ascetic."

St. Charles Avenue is a thoroughfare in New Orleans, Louisiana and the home of the world famous St. Charles Streetcar Line. It is also famous for the hundreds of mansions that adorn the tree-lined boulevard for much of the Uptown section of the route. The southern live oak trees, particularly found in the historic Garden District, were added during the early twentieth century. Similar additions were made on other main streets throughout New Orleans, such as Carrollton, Napoleon and Canal, becoming one of the city's most memorable features. St. Charles is also known as one of the main Mardi Gras parade routes.


Originally incorporated in 1845 as Carrollton, a city in its own right, this area was annexed by New Orleans in 1874.  Today, the neighborhood is a casual shopping and dining district.  Oak and Maple Streets are chockablock with boutiques, bookstores, restaurants, clubs and college students.

New Orleans East

While the national media has focused on the 9th Ward's bout with Hurricane Katrina, the suburban New Orleans East appears to have struggled just as much.  Developed extensively from the 1960s onwards, it was originally marketed as "suburban-style living within the city limits", and has much in common with the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. Today, its character remains notably suburban, resembling typical American suburbia much more than the characteristic New Orleans landscape of cast iron and mature live oaks known to tourists.

In 2005, the majority of Eastern New Orleans flooded severely from Hurricane Katrina and associated levee failures (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans). Recovery has been slow. By early 2006, only a handful of businesses had reopened, mostly those sited along the historic Gentilly Ridge (i.e., the Chef Menteur Highway corridor). Utility service was fully restored to the area during the course of 2006. As of January 2007, still less than half of the pre-Katrina residential population had returned, and many were living in FEMA trailers as they gutted and repaired their flood-devastated homes. Some residents returned on weekends to repair their property, while others gave up and abandoned the area. By November 2006 only 40,000 residents had returned to New Orleans East, compared to the 96,000 that had inhabited the area before the levee failures. As more residents returned to New Orleans and surrounding areas, Eastern New Orleans' population continued to rise. By 2010, slightly more than half of the East's pre-Katrina population had returned. Determined to permanently reduce the quantity of multi-family housing, eastern New Orleans homeowners have lobbied against many rental developments proposed in the post-Katrina era, and as a consequence far less multi-family rental housing is available now in New Orleans East than existed pre-Katrina. Unfortunately, the national retailers who flocked to the East in the 1960s and 70s, and even into the 80s and 90s, have almost uniformly failed to rebuild. Despite a current population in excess of 50,000, only one grocery store operates at present in all of New Orleans East. Furthermore, neither Methodist nor Lakeland hospitals reopened after Katrina, leaving the East without a general hospital and bereft of ER care. Notwithstanding the return of the majority of its pre-Katrina residents, New Orleans East still lacks adequate retail goods and services and critical health care infrastructure, and presently seeks a catalyst to spur further redevelopment and reinvestment.

This 12-screen movie theater with stadium seating opened its doors in 2002.

Common Characteristics


New Orleans - The New Orleans port system is world's busiest in terms of bulk tonnage and the 4th-largest in volume handled.
Jacksonville - second largest East Coast port for automobile imports.


New Orleans - St. Charles streetcar longest operating system in US
Jacksonville - Main Street steetcar service ended in 1936.


New Orleans - New Orleans consolidated with Orleans Parish in 1874.
Jacksonville - Jacksonville consolidated with Duval County in 1968.

Urban Parks

New Orleans - 1,300-acre City Park is the 6th-largest and 7th-most visited urban public park in the United States.
Jacksonville - Jacksonville claims to have the largest urban parks system in the United States.

City Population

New Orleans - New Orleans max population was 627,525 in 1960.
Jacksonville - Jacksonville's max population was estimated to be 807,815 in 2008.

Jax Beer

New Orleans: Jackson Brewery was the 10th-largest brewery in the country during the 1960s and the central brewery for Jax Beer
Jacksonville: Jax Beer was founded in Jacksonville in 1913 and brewed in Jacksonville until the copyright was sold to Jackson Brewing in 1956.


Article and Photographs by Ennis Davis