Central Business District

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The abrupt and startling difference in scale between the low-rise Vieux Carré and the towering buildings of the business district on the opposite side of Canal Street highlights the contrasting histories of these two areas of New Orleans. What is now known as the Central Business District (CBD) began as Faubourg St. Mary, laid out by Carlos Trudeau in 1788 and inhabited by Anglo-Americans who flocked to New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The Anglo-Americans and the French-speaking Creoles soon found that they disagreed about almost everything. As a result, New Orleans was divided into three municipalities in 1836; Anglo-Americans dominated this section of the city and built their own city hall and public square. This division lasted until 1852, when the city was reunified.

Warehouses and industrial structures were built along the streets closest to the wharves by the river; inland rose a mix of commercial and residential buildings. By the early twentieth century, high-rise commercial structures had largely displaced residential property. In the mid-twentieth century, the remaining residential areas, primarily African American neighborhoods, were cleared for a new civic center (OR94). Further demolition took place for the Superdome (OR97), which resulted in vast areas of surface parking, particularly on S. Rampart Street. Following the early 1980s collapse of the oil boom that had fueled the New Orleans economy after World War II, the city increasingly turned to tourism as a source of revenue. In the late twentieth century, a convention center on the riverfront begun by Perez Associates in 1984 for the Louisiana World Exposition expanded upriver over several blocks. Simultaneously, high-rise commercial buildings began, and continue to be, converted into hotels and abandoned warehouses repurposed as apartment buildings, all bringing a new vitality to this area. Most recently new residential construction is booming in an area called South Market.

Writing Credits

Karen Kingsley and Lake Douglas

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