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NEWCITY: Shared vision lays the foundation for a vibrant community

5/2/2017

Terri B. North, President and CEO, Providence Community Housing

Challenge: Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, neighborhoods in New Orleans were targeted for one of the largest urban renewal projects in U.S. history. This unprecedented opportunity for revitalization could only succeed by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders invested in the future of these culturally significant neighborhoods.

A group of volunteers standing outside housing units, posing for a picture.

Simply helping families return to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina wasn’t enough. New Orleanians needed safe and affordable housing, a familiar network of family and friends and supportive services to connect residents to opportunities toward stability and self-sufficiency.

Since 2006, Providence Community Housing developed more than 1,200 units of housing and helped over 450 individuals and families become homeowners in the Greater New Orleans area. Providence fosters healthy, diverse and vibrant communities with a belief that strong communities can address the needs of low-income individuals and families. We primarily focus on the neighborhoods of Tremé/Lafitte, Tulane/Gravier, and Seventh Ward, including Faubourg Lafitte, a redeveloped community of mixed-income families on the site of the former Lafitte public housing development. Since 2005, more than $5.5 billion has been invested in projects in this area to create or improve housing, infrastructure, arts and culture, education, healthcare and neighborhood amenities. Recognizing this unprecedented opportunity for neighborhood revitalization, Providence established the NEWCITY Neighborhood Partnership with 15 community leaders in 2007.

NEWCITY was created to maximize the benefits of one of the largest urban renewal projects in our nation’s history by providing a space to share information, discuss issues and build partnerships. Since its inception, NEWCITY has attracted a diverse coalition of residents, businesses, developers, funders, service providers, faith-based groups, schools and universities and government agencies who have a long-term interest in the viability of these historic neighborhoods. 

“By bringing people together, we knew much more could be accomplished than going at it alone,” said Jim Kelly, a founding member of NEWCITY and a board member at Providence. “NEWCITY members have a shared vision and are genuinely interested in the hopes, dreams and successes of the neighborhood. It is a truly catholic vision.”

A group of four people sitting at a table in a classroom environment, talking.Today, NEWCITY includes 80 participating organizations that meet monthly at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center. NEWCITY serves as an engine for educational, economic and housing development by sharing resources and information about neighborhood projects, programs and policies. The initiative sparks discussion among members with multiple perspectives and creates a forum for partners to present work, seek support, build partnerships and collaborate for change. Ultimately NEWCITY is committed to building upon the existing strengths and historical significance of the neighborhoods to foster a more vibrant community for residents and businesses.

NEWCITY focuses on helping members with data-driven projects and has created reports for three residential surveys in 2012, 2013 and 2015, as well as four parcel surveys of approximately 5,700 parcels from 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Through NEWCITY, Providence collects, analyzes and shares extensive Community Impact Measurement survey data to establish benchmarks, inform planning and assess the needs of residents, businesses and industry in our area. We collect new and existing data related to specific areas that members have highlighted as being of vital importance, namely public health, children, planning and development, water management and crime. 

“NEWCITY was put together very purposely with an up-from-the-bottom structure that was not imposed by anybody,” said Lisa Amoss, a founding member of NEWCITY. “NEWCITY grew out of the meetings of its early participants. As we got bigger, I am proud that NEWCITY has retained its organic structure.”

What keeps NEWCITY relevant is consistency in its meeting format and continued outreach as the neighborhood evolves. By rotating the meeting facilitator role among members, no single group or individual has too much influence.

“People come to NEWCITY meetings because it’s important to them, they always learn things that they didn’t know before and they make connections they didn’t have before,” said Amoss. “That to me is the biggest success.”

During the development of NEWCITY, we learned:
  1. collaboration requires leadership to maintain momentum
  2. There are few opportunities to successfully bring together groups and individuals with many different goals. NEWCITY is the intersection where everyone can see the common ground.

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