Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of posts marking the fifth anniversary of the historic flood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Get links to the entire series here.
When I met New Orleans real estate broker Judy Fisher four years ago. She was sipping coffee at the Fair Grinds Coffee House hard by the Fairgrounds and Racetrack. She was tired, but hopeful. I interviewed her for an editorial package on the rebuilding that appeared in Multifamily Executive Magazine later that spring (read part of that here, and the full article here).
I checked back in with Fisher last week as we approached the fifth anniversary of the epic floods that swept through the Crescent City. Her mood was decidedly more upbeat than the last time I’d seen her. “I’m extremely optimistic,” she said cheerily. “The Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast is undergoing massive infrastructure updates and repairs along vastly improved government systems.” (For more on NO/LA politics, read Devin Dwyer's report for ABCNews: Katrina Pols Weather Legacy of Storm's Trial)
Q. What’s the most important thing you want people “outside” to know about New Orleans five years post-Katrina?
A. That we are definitely "back" better than before, our building codes have been updated and permits are managed better- in many ways we are now proceeding with more of a "best practices" philosophy than ever before.
Q. How has the real estate business recovered?
A. The unflooded areas saw property values increase initially but have now "leveled out", our markets have remained active in spite of tight credit and values in some the metro New Orleans have actually increased- how many markets in this country can say that?
Q. In January 2006, you said, “We need big developers to bring in crews. We need the best and brightest minds in the real estate industry to look at doing projects here. Do some flyovers and see what can be done. Now is an especially good time for environmentally-sound projects because people will listen now. Mother Nature taught us a real lesson.” Has this happened?
A. Brad Pitt's "Make It Right" project is an excellent example of how to rebuild for the 21 Century in Southwest Louisiana and elsewhere, the Lower 9th Ward can proudly say that they have the largest LEED-Platinum-certified subdivision in the world. (For more on Make It Right, read this. For a look back at the rental market, read this).
Q. What should people considering relocating to New Orleans know?
A. Most important is that the security and safety of the area is now the prime concern of all levels of government AND we do have some of the world's best minds in the world at work here to create leading edge ideas and bring them to market. To assist in bringing us to a more sustainable 21st century, the federal government and the State of Louisiana are providing up to 80 percent in "energy" tax credits for rebuilding, new construction or existing home/building systems. No other state offers as much! There are several bills in Congress extending the GO ZONE tax credits which are set to expire the end of this year. That will help move some projects along that have stalled due to the severe credit crunch.
For more on rebuilding New Orleans, check out these resources:
John Woodin's City of Memory: New Orleans Before, During and After Katrina
Marcie Dickson's Katrina +5: Through the Lens
Eve Kidd Crawford's Marking Time, Making it Through