Landscape Performance Benefits
- Infiltrates or evaporates 37% of average annual rainfall by decreasing impervious land cover by 63%. Bioretention swales and rain gardens manage additional runoff onsite. Newly-planted and existing trees and shrubs intercept an additional 24,000 cf of stormwater runoff annually.
- Reduces average air temperatures by 5-8 °F and surface temperatures by 5-10 °F when comparing sample locations along the greenway to those in adjacent neighborhoods.
- Sequesters an estimated 12,000 lbs of atmospheric carbon annually through 625 trees and shrubs on-site, equivalent to 13,680 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle annually and a 92% increase in sequestration from previously existing vegetation.
- Promotes community health by expanding opportunities for physical activity, with over 312,000 people biking and walking the Greenway in 2018. Visitorship increased by 16% from 2016 to 2017 and 8% from 2018 to 2019.
- Contributes to a 15% decrease in average vehicular speed through the greenway from an average of 27 mph to 23 mph, as compared to adjacent blocks that do not have traffic calming and pedestrian safety features at crosswalks.
- Contributed to an estimated 60% increase in average residential real estate sales prices within 6 blocks of the greenway.
- Helped to catalyze the creation of at least 10 new commercial developments and 10 new multi-family residential developments within 2 blocks of the greenway.
- Catalyzed over $4.9 million in investment in additional Greenway investments and public infrastructure for adjacent areas.
At a Glance
Former Land Use
4323 Saint Louis Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70119
The Lafitte Greenway is a 2.6-mile linear park extending from the French Quarter northeast through Mid-City in New Orleans, Louisiana. Previously an abandoned, heavily polluted industrial shipping and rail corridor, the greenway began as a grassroots effort by neighborhood residents and was one of the first municipal revitalization projects following Hurricane Katrina. The Lafitte Greenway was one of the earliest public parks in southeastern Louisiana to incorporate green stormwater management practices as a central goal, setting an example for sustainable design in a region uniquely vulnerable to flooding. A 12-ft-wide asphalt trail functions as the backbone of the park, connecting eight economically and socially diverse neighborhoods along 27 city blocks and providing a new alternative transportation option to the nearby central business district. Playgrounds, open space, an equestrian trail, and other amenities provide active and passive recreation opportunities for both residents and visitors. The greenway’s mature live oaks, extensive native plantings, bioswales, and rain gardens help mitigate flooding, filter pollution, and provide crucial shade in a city that was designated as having the United States’ most severe urban heat island in 2021 by Climate Central.
- Convert a 2.6-mile abandoned rail right-of-way into a publicly accessible open space that connects eight neighborhoods along 27 city blocks.
- Capture and retain all stormwater onsite for up to a 10-year storm event.
- Increase habitat for wildlife by using a diverse array of native plants and expanding the urban forest.
- Reduce urban heat island effect.
- Improve soil quality.
- Preserve the cultural heritage through adaptive reuse of historic features such as Carondelet Walk.
- Improve pedestrian safety.
- Increase the availability of open space, recreational opportunities, and community health for people within one quarter mile walking distance.
- Stimulate economic investment in the surrounding area.
- Support public art.
- The 2.6-mile corridor varies from 50 to 475 ft in width and includes lawns, sports fields and courts, playgrounds, a dog park, water features, community gardens, and extensive new plantings.
- A 12-ft-wide asphalt path along the greenway provides an accessible trail for pedestrians and cyclists that is protected from vehicular traffic.
- Over 540 native shade trees representing at least 22 species on-site include bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), live oak (Quercus virginiana), pecan (Carya illinoinensis), and southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). 18 mature live oaks were preserved on the site.
- 271,750 sf of native herbaceous plantings represent a 1,088% increase in habitat area from 23,295 sf to 313,295 sf.
- Stormwater management features include 271,750 sf of bioretention swales varying from 1 to 5 ft deep, and 3 rain gardens totaling 84 sf in area.
- 18,525 sf of permeable concrete sidewalks and multi-use paths reduce impervious surfaces along the greenway.
- 157 LED energy-efficient lights throughout the site allow for use into the evening hours.
- The Carondelet Walk represents a restoration of a previously existing promenade along the historic Carondelet Canal to preserve the site’s identity, history, and heritage. The promenade includes a 1,400-ft-long and 8-ft-wide walking path of crushed stone edged with granite pavers, 15 benches, and 5 trash receptacles.
- Temporary and permanent public art installations enhance neighborhood culture by engaging the community and supporting events along the greenway. Permanent installations include several murals by locally famous Brandan “B-mike” Odums, the “Iris of Memory” sculpture by William Nemitoff, and the “Turning (Prayer Wheels for the Mississippi River)” sculpture by Michel Varisco.
- The greenway has two playground and fitness areas. Lemann Playground is located at the corner of Prieur and St. Louis and is equipped with soccer goals, exercise equipment, a community pool, an equestrian trail, water fountains, bleachers, bike racks, field lighting, and a recycled rubber floor. The What You Give Will Grow Fitlot Fitness Park is adjacent to Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center playground located on the corner of Lafitte Avenue and Galvez Street. It includes a circuit training station to provide exercise opportunities for a broad range of age groups.
- Facilities for team sports include an athletic field with soccer goals, field goal posts, and bleachers; a basketball court made from permeable concrete; a baseball field; and 2 tennis courts.
Environmental justice is a central concern with Lafitte Greenway. The designers made concerted efforts to engage with the community through the planning process, setting specific goals to increase neighborhood pride, enhance community representation, and ensure residents feel a sense of satisfaction with the direction of the neighborhood. Further goals towards strengthening community health included promoting active living, providing access to fresh local food, and enhancing pedestrian safety. Today the Friends of Lafitte Greenway continue to pursue these goals through regular programming and community advocacy.
Neighborhood revitalization was a main goal of the greenway project; however, residential displacement was also a major concern, particularly towards the lower segment of the Greenway where higher rates of unemployment and housing insecurity were prevalent. Revitalization has been largely successful, prompting economic development through increased residential property sales and new commercial ventures in underutilized buildings. In theory this provides more housing options and new job opportunities, but these are not necessarily accessible to existing residents. Rising property values also bring increased property taxes that can threaten housing security of low income residents.
Landscapes are rarely able to solve socioeconomic problems alone; it takes people to spur change. The Friends of Lafitte Greenway (FOLG) is a grassroots nonprofit organization that advocates for the park and surrounding community. They are committed to ensuring existing residents at all income levels can continue to afford living around the greenway. The FOLG partners with local stakeholders to increase awareness of housing insecurity, provide financial tools to help homeowners, and support equitable public policies. These include the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NIHF) and rental regulations designed to prevent displacement.
The FOLG also works to strengthen community through public programming. They offer community service programs at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center (which was completed later), such as after-school programs and summer camps for youth and programs for low-income seniors.
Food access was another goal for the greenway. The Crescent City Farmers Market is a weekly event located in the Greenway Plaza (which was completed later). The market hosts over 150,000 shoppers each year and involves around 60 local small farmers. An August 2020 FOLG survey of greenway users found that the market was in the top 3 out of 10 reasons to engage with the greenway, with 74% of those surveyed stating that this event is something to look forward to. The Lafitte Greenway also spurred the ReFresh Project, which considers itself a “Community Health Hub,” providing fresh food to what was once a food desert in a low-income area.
- The City of New Orleans and Friends of Lafitte Greenway lack funding and maintenance programs to properly maintain the complex native plantings included in the design. The maintenance capacity of the City is limited to mowing turf grass and occasional tree care. This has resulted in a gradual invasion of unwanted species and occasional degradation of plantings. The rain gardens have been particularly affected; they are currently populated exclusively with turf grasses and weeds, which have a greatly reduced stormwater holding capacity compared to the larger native herbaceous material specified in the design. The bioswales have been less impacted, but there is still significant invasion by unwanted species. Although they continue to hold water and filter pollutants, aesthetic quality is slightly diminished.
- Plants should have been installed at each section of the greenway as new soil was brought to the site, as opposed to installing all planting at the end. A cover crop should have been established before the grass was hydroseeded, rather than allowing the soil to sit bare for weeks, which caused erosion issues and required re-grading some bioswales.
- During construction, the City of New Orleans objected to the fact that the bioswales held water for longer than 48 hours. To remedy this, 1-in holes were created at the base of bioswale drain inlets to allow drainage directly into channels, compromising the ability of the swales to store water. Although stormwater below 4 in in depth continues to be absorbed by the vegetation or infiltrate into the ground, anything above this point drains directly into the storm system.
- The Lafitte Greenway started as a grassroots effort, and public participation has always been a crucial part of its success. The landscape architect measured residents’ perception of the area before project completion through surveys, polling, and focus group meetings with community members. Today Friends of Lafitte Greenway (FOLG) continues these efforts through regular community and user surveys to ensure programming responds to residents’ needs. The FOLG 2019 Annual Evaluation measured public perception of the greenway related to safety, sense of community, and activities and amenities. The response indicated that the majority of those surveyed felt positively about the greenway. The presence of an active “friends of” group can help a project stay connected to the needs of its user group.
Native Plantings and Materials: Pastorek Habitats and Emerald Gardens
Site Lighting: Cooper Lighting and Marathon Composite Poles
Parks and Recreation Equipment: NORCD, FOLG
Amenities: operated and managed by NORD
Site Furnishings: Durr Heavy Construction and Department of Public Works
Fencing and Railing: Omega II Fence Systems
Permeable Pavement: Durr Heavy Construction
Wayfinding Signage: Department of Public Works, reviewed by City’s Design Advisory Co.
Bike Racks: Young Leadership Council’s Where Ya Rack Program
ADA Push Buttons: Polara Engineering, Inc.
Crosswalk Beacons: JSF Technologies
Eco-Counter: Eco MULTI
Detectable Warning Plates at ADA Ramps: ADA Solutions
Landscape Architect: Design Workshop, Inc.
Local Landscape Architect: Dana Brown & Associates, Inc
Consultant Team: Applied Ecological Services; Three Fold Consultants, LLC.; Elkins, P.I.C.; EskewDumezRipple; Greenplay; Walter Kulash; Chris Davala; Bright Moments; Michael Willis Architects; RCLCO (formerly Robert Charles Lesser & Co., LLC)
Client: City of New Orleans
Public Engagement: Bright Moments
Title Work: Elkins PLC
Survey: Gandolfo Kuhn
Recreation Planning: GreenPlay, LLC
Economics: RCLCO (formerly Robert Charles Lesser & Co., LLC)
Urban Design – Architecture: EskewDumezRipple; Michael Willis Architects
Civil Engineering: Julien Engineering
Environmental: Applied Ecological Services
Landscaper: Emerald Gardens and Pastorek Habitats
Transportation: Walter Kulash
Safety and Security: Christopher Davala
General Contractor: Durr Heavy Construction
Community Engagement and Management: Friends of Lafitte Greenway/Corridor
Survey: Greenway Ambassadors
Role of the Landscape Architect
The role of the landscape architects included incorporation of public input and synthesis of measurable objectives while working across a range of scales, all with the goal of transforming an old industrial rail corridor into a greenway. The lead landscape architect led consultations and held a contract with the City of New Orleans. They led an extensive community engagement process along with the Friends of Lafitte Greenway (which came from the grassroots group that conceived the park) and produced a master plan for the site. The local landscape architect focused on stormwater strategy and calculations.