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Organizations We Love: Friends of Lafitte Greenway

By Green Coast on 1 Mar 2019

Aerial view of the Greenway. Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Recreation Department
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Aerial view of the Greenway. Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Recreation Department

Nowadays the Lafitte Greenway is seen as a neighborhood connector, starting with Lakeview and ending in Iberville. But, as Friends of Lafitte Greenway Executive Director Sophie Harris Vorhoff points out, it wasn’t long ago that the historic transportation corridor with its aging railroad tracks physically separated people.

“The railroad had been decommissioned for 50 years, so the community and City came together to redesign a something that had divided the community,” Harris Vorhoff says. “Now, it’s a transportation corridor for bike and foot travel; a space for play; economic development; healthy living and water retention.”

As part of a public/private partnership, New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) manages the 2.6 linear park for the City with supercharged support from Friends of Lafitte Greenway, which includes three staff members, around 400 committee members with more than 500 volunteers helping to maintain the site. Vorhoff, who became a Friends of Lafitte Greenway board member in 2012 and executive director in 2014, says that public use of park continues to grow with a 10 percent annual increase with more than 300,000 people using the corridor in 2018.

The park’s main feature is the pedestrian trail for bike and foot travel, but there is so much more with fitness areas including FitLot, the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center, a playground, tennis courts, art installations, flowering meadows and stormwater management techniques that help with water retention while beautifying the park. A tremendous amount of neighborhood engagement and planning went behind these amenities, and Vorhoff says it’s an approach used on the private side of the greenway.

“It’s not just a public space, but it’s also about how can the surrounding private development activate the public space,” Vorhoff says.

Green Coast’s Greenway Apartments is an excellent example of private mixed-use development enhancing the existing public space. The historic renovation of the formerly blighted industrial warehouse now provides housing along the greenway, and HEY Coffee Co. serving coffee, other beverages and food for those greenway commuters and exercisers needing a little caffeine jolt and sustenance. Plus, the building employs a sophisticated cistern system, pervious sidewalks and is landscaped with native water-loving plants to aid in water retention.

More mixed-use projects are in the pipeline, and Vorhoff points out that Friends of Lafitte Greenway will play a major role in ensuring the corridor’s success.

“We want to see the greenway’s continued development as transportation corridor, more community events with arts and cultural activities and industrial uses,• says Vorhoff. “This requires engaging our neighborhoods, ensuring voices are heard and always working towards building, programming and promoting the greenway as a great public space.”

Categories: Development

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