Livability Solutions

Celebrating Place and Civil Rights: New Orleans, LA

September 2015


New Orleans Redevelopment Authority


Place Audit



Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard is an important corridor in Central City New Orleans, with a rich Civil Rights history and commercial, arts, and culinary assets. The corridor has faced challenges over the past several decades, with high rates of poverty and vacant properties, but thanks to investments from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), the City of New Orleans, local businesses, and cultural institutions, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard is in the midst of a renaissance. The community wishes to use this moment to develop a vision for its under-utilized public spaces.

The New Orleans Development Authority and Livability Solutions' technical assistance provider (Project for Public Spaces) defined the following objectives for technical assistance:

  1. Identifying a series of nodes along Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard that have the potential to serve as 'sticky spots' that will attract people, encourage lingering, and foster walking.
  2. Engaging stakeholders and local residents/businesses in generating specific ideas to enhance these nodes.
  3. Training NORA, Tulane City Center, Oretha Castle Haley Merchant and Business Association and other partners in using the Place Game exercise and in Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) techniques to activate places.
  4. Developing a vision and an action plan with short and long term steps for activating 4-7 nodes of activity.


On the first day of on-site technical assistance, Project for Public Spaces organized a workshop for local stakeholder which included the Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Merchants & Business Association's Board of Directors; the Greater New Orleans Foundation; the Arts Council; and the departments of Public Works, Planning & Strategy, and Parks & Parkways. Following a PPS presentation on the elements of successful places and the process of Placemaking, participants were invited to share their vision for the boulevard's future.

That evening PPS facilitated a community meeting during which attendees utilized the Place Game to identify the strengths, weakness and opportunities of five sites in the Oretha Castle Haley corridor. Participants then brainstormed suggested improvements for their assigned nodes according to the four measures of place: Uses and Activities; Comfort and Image; Sociability; and Access and Linkages.

On the final day of the on-site technical assistance PPS conducted youth, community development, arts and culture, and small businesses focus group interviews. The interviews, along with intercept surveys of people in the Oretha Castle Haley corridor, informed the technical memo. At the conclusion of the visit, PPS met with NORA and other key stakeholders to solicit feedback on the technical assistance and to discuss preliminary recommendations for Placemaking opportunities within the Oretha Castle Haley corridor.


NORA has awarded a $250,000 capital improvement grant to the Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Merchants Association for a Civil Rights Placemaking Retrospective Project. Improvements will be made to the Martin Luther King Walk known as Hayden Plaza at the intersection of Oretha Castle Haley and Martin Luther King, Jr. boulevards. The improvements will include upgrades to the landscaping, seating and lighting. The Frank Hayden sculpture that anchors the space will be cleaned and a missing plaque noting the public art's importance will be replaced. Construction work is anticipated to begin in the fall and conclude in time for the 2017 Dr. King holiday.

NORA and local youth installed a Story Shelter on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. The artful shelter and crosswalk were imagined, designed and built by local youth.

PPS will continue working with NORA and the neighborhood through 2018, as New Orleans was chosen as host for the PPS conference Walk/ Bike/Places 2018.