A woman walks home from work on the quiet streets of the Lower Ninth Ward.

Signage in a small memorial park in the midst of several Make It Right Homes graphically illustrates the viewer's current location in context to the massive flooding that occurred in the Lower Ninth in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

photo of Make It Right homes

Make It Right homes.

photo of Make It Right homes

Make It Right homes.

photo of Make It Right homes

Make It Right home.

photo of the memorial park in the Make It Right community

A memorial park in the Make It Right community features several benches conducive to quiet contemplation of the loss this community suffered and of rebirth symbolized by the Make It Right Homes surrounding the park.

photo of the memorial park and educational panels

In addition to providing quiet beauty and green space for the neighborhood, the park preserves the porch foundations of two pre-Katrina homes and displays educational photo panels about Make It Right's mission and projects.

Photo of park's photo panels showcasing some homes and residents

One of the park's Make It Right photo panels showcasing some of the homes and residents.

photo of park panel with details about green features in park and neighborhood

A park panel with details on site elements in the neighborhood and park.

08.29.15

Coming home in New Orleans

"The message of Make It Right is to take this spot that was emblematic of such human failure and to make it a human success story of how we can build in the future, how we can build with equality, how we can build for families." – Brad Pitt, founder, Make It Right

One of our friends visited New Orleans last month and realizing the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was on the horizon, made their way to the Make It Right community in the Lower Ninth Ward, where 109 LEED Platinum certified homes sited within a 20-block area of the Lower Ninth Ward dot the mostly empty urban landscape. The photos you see here were taken by our friend in early July, well before the media swirl surrounding the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was underway.

You may remember that after Hurricane Katrina's third landfall on August 29, 2005, storm surge waters poured into the Lower Ninth Ward from breeches in the levees and the water's movement was so swift and its mass so powerful, that in addition to massive flooding, a number of homes were literally swept from their foundations. In ensuing days, devastation unimaginable to most of us - loss of lives, homes, livelihood, family, friends and community - consumed one of New Orleans' poorest areas. More than 5,000 homes were destroyed and loss of life was higher in the Lower Ninth than in any other area.

Ten years later, as the media revisits Hurricane Katrina, our nation's costliest natural disaster and the third deadliest in U.S. history, the Washington Post reports" that while the rest of New Orleans has regained about 90 percent of its pre-Katrina population, only about one-third of properties in the Lower Ninth have been repopulated. Our friend confirmed the Lower Ninth is still relatively undeveloped, and is mostly a tangle of jungle-like vegetation with a smattering of homes. Yet out of that untended jungle, hope for the community seems to grow in the eclectic collection of Make It Right projects, colorful modern homes glowing like a beacon in the surrounding emptiness.

In response to a lack of recovery efforts in the shattered Lower Ninth, actor and producer, Brad Pitt, founded the Make It Foundation in 2007 to help those from the Lower Ninth Ward who wanted to return and rebuild but did not have the means to do so. With a mission to build safe, Cradle-to-Cradle inspired homes, buildings and communities for people in need, Make It Right projects are LEED Platinum certified and meet the highest standards of green building. You can read more about the architects involved in the project -- a handful with internationally renowned names -- view designs, prototype homes and the design selection process here.

While Make it Right is solidly committed to their original site in New Orleans, the foundation is branching out, with projects in Newark, N.J., Kansas City, Mo., and the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana.As one might suspect with an undertaking of this magnitude, Make It Right's accomplishments did not come easy, and along the way there have been plenty of detractors and critics. Do a bit of Googling and you'll find a number of articles slicing and dicing the foundation's efforts. Yet even among the critics, many see the needle of progress moving forward toward better, more resilient, low-income housing.

In a recent Times-Picayune article Pitt acknowledges the progress of the last few years has been complex, that they knew at the outset what they were doing was experimental, and he says the process has been complicated, a "big learning curve." Yet Pitt maintains that the fundamental premise of Make It Right is valid - that low-income housing can be built with quality, non-toxic materials, be energy efficient, and still be affordable. Pitt posted a message on Make It Right's website observing yet another addition to Lower Ninth Ward, the 109th home built by Make It Right for a middle school teacher and single mother, who received the keys to her home yesterday (and BTW, it's the area's first tiny house). Pitt also notes the foundation's work is far from done -- 87 families are still on Make It Right's waiting list -- "still trying to come home."

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