New Orleans is almost completely below sea level. When I visited there a few years ago, I was amazed by this fact. I was also amazed that other than the Quarter and the surrounding area (Garden District, etc.) there wasn't much to New Orleans other than some old mansions and very low income neighborhoods. Now, as we know, most of those houses are gone or abandoned and the displaced people will not all be coming back.
I've waited a long while to post my thoughts on New Orleans. As you long time readers know, during the hurricane days I had a ton of posts. It was then that I came up with my original thought and it's been since then that I've refined my thought a bit (with some ideas from friends).
My thought is one that I'm sure has been mentioned already and that is to not rebuild most of New Orleans. I think that the city, as long as it is located where it is, would be asking for trouble if it was fully rebuilt. Another storm could and probably will occur in the future, a ton of money would be spent on a city that probably won't grow as fast as expected. Face facts, a lot of people won't be coming back.
Now, it's important to preserve certain parts of the city. I'm talking about the ones that have historical significance like the quarter. I'm talking about Tulane. Places that weren't damaged. Places that are above the water line. These places should be preserved and a supporting area should be built for them as well. New Orleans could be rebuilt purely as a tourist attraction.
I believe that all of the coastal towns outside of the city that were mostly destroyed should also be cleared off and all the residents should group together with the displaced New Orleans residents that want to come back and a new city should be built in their place. Near New Orleans but above the water line. Pool all the rebuilding money to bring in the best city planners and start from scratch.
Think of all the wonderful design ideas you could come up with if you had a blank sheet of paper to design a new city. Highways, roads and streets could be placed in ideal patterns to eliminate traffic and congestion. Commercial and Industrial zones could be ideally located. New sewers and pipes and fiber and electric could be run perfectly. Whatever.. The point is that if you had the best and the brightest minds in America design a city from the ground up, it would be an amazing place.
To build the city, you do a novel thing. Use sweat equity. All the out of work people who lost jobs and homes in New Orleans and the surrounding area could be put to work building their future home. Like new homeowners who bought their home cheap because it needed work, these people could be paid a simple wage to do labor building the city but also get a credit towards purchasing one of the homes they are building.
This is just a simple idea, but one that if more people worked on it, could be an amazing opportunity to do something simply spectacular. The key is that we agree that rebuilding New Orleans is a mistake and that we also agree that all the displaced residents want and need two things: work and a new home. I bet we just throw some money into it for a while and do a half-assed job of it like most things our government does and as usual, I think that would be pretty sad.