Tour spotlights bright spots, blight
Ten neighborhoods in N.O. are exploredSunday, May 03, 2009 By Ramon Antonio VargasStaff writer
Ronnie Seaton, a master chef who has cooked for three U.S. presidents, lives in a neatly groomed shotgun house in New Orleans' northwest Carrollton neighborhood, less than 100 feet from a blighted corner known to residents as a hot spot for drug peddling.
Despite the contrast, Seaton's home and the crime-ridden corner both were designated stops on a walking tour Saturday that commemorated a renowned urban activist who advocated the sort of walkable neighborhoods common to New Orleans.
Named for Jane Jacobs, who touted cities where people can get along without cars and make strong connections with their neighbors, more than 100 so-called "Jane's Walk" neighborhood tours took place Saturday across the United States and Canada. Volunteers led 10 tours in New Orleans enclaves including Broadmoor, Central City, Faubourg St. John and eastern New Orleans.
Northwest Carrollton Civic Association members Jenel Hazlett, Karen Gadbois and Kim Carver added a creative twist, celebrating their area's assets and calling out its liabilities. Though not well attended, perhaps because of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and other events around town, the tour was packed with landmarks that neighbors say have helped the area's Hurricane Katrina recovery, hurt it -- or both.
Hazlett, the group's president, pointed out Seaton and his Apple Street home as one of the neighborhood's indisputable assets. Greeting the tour in boxers and sandals, Seaton announced plans to conduct free cooking classes at a nearby church "to get kids off the street."
Another prime asset was the Landis Construction Co. headquarters in the 8300 block of Earhart Boulevard, former bubble-gum factory. Guides said the once-decrepit building now is the home base of rebuilding projects worth billions of dollars.
Other stops were less uplifting.
More than a dozen blighted homes and buildings that languish throughout the area are owned by the same few landlords, the guides said.
Gadbois, Carver, Hazlett knew the property owners names but said that neighbors have had little luck prodding them to clean up or sell their parcels.
One landmark simultaneously has blessed and hurt the neighborhood, Hazlett said.
John Blancher's decision to move his iconic Mid City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl music hall and bowling alley to the corner of Carrollton and Earhart had made NorthWest Carrollton "the next coolest neighborhood" in New Orleans, she said.
Unfortunately Hazlett said, Blanch didn't drop the "Mid-City" moniker from his business signs. The name is no doubt a powerful brand, she said, but it does nothing to polish the tarnished image of Northwest Carrollton that drug dealers and slumlords have created. "We are so excited to have them here. It's just that we're not Mid-City. She said, "They are no longer there."
Master Chef Ronnie Seaton talks outside his Apple Street home to Jenel Hazlett, Jason Tudor and Kim Carver during a walking tour Saturday of NorthWest Carrollton.
Karen Gadbois, left, Jason Tudor, Jenel Hazlett and Kim Carver take part in Jane's Walk, a walking tour Saturday that commemorated and urban activist who advocated the sort of walkable neighborhoods that are common in New Orleans.