Now that we are on the last legs of Carnaval 2015 the New York Times naturally has focused attention on New Orleans. In the column Surfacing, Jordan Michael Smith points particularly to a renewed neighborhood once known only as Freret Street it has now become in city planning parlance a cultural corridor. Freret Street meet Freret Corridor. Four years ago when we published the Vitality Index™ (VI), we ranked New Orleans tenth out of 35 cities, an amazing achievement for a city still in desperate shape from Hurricane Katrina (2005). Despite its profound problems, New Orleans’ neighborhoods, street culture, and sense of place put it high on the list, right after Los Angeles.
The Freret Corridor is a great example of the vibrant aspects of city life that struggled to survive after Katrina and today look like a creative city in microcosm. If we look at Freret Corridor through the lens of the VI it’s easy to see why. Smith notes “What makes it particularly valuable is the variety of the new spots, more than 20 of them, including a comedy club, a cocktail bar, a pet grooming shop, a boxing gym, and a garden center,” and all in an eight block area that is “easily walkable from end to end,” according to The New Freret website.
When we look at cities we research quantitative and qualitative aspects of city life and weigh both sides of that equation equally. What is of particular interest to us on the qual side are people-oriented projects and initiatives (bottom-up), public access, opportunities for people to get together and rub shoulders, and enthusiasm for their city. These create the energy, the vibrancy of a place you want to be. The Freret Corridor has all of these. From comics shops to real estate agents, donuts to optical wear. It feels like a place you want to check out. Fortunately, as great cities do, they’ve invited us in on this grand experiment. As their website says, “We’ve come together on Freret Street and we’d love you to join us.” Okay!