“I saw an old lady get off in the middle of the block, right across from this house. The bus stopped, and the bus driver helped her get down with her bags in her arm, and the old lady walked down the street to her house with her two bags of groceries, and I said, ‘This must be a good neighborhood.’”
—Ernest Osteen, Broadmoor resident
Broadmoor is a diverse neighborhood nestled in a shallow bowl in the heart of New Orleans. Its recovery was slow until January of 2006, when a citywide planning commission map branded the neighborhood with a “green dot,” suggesting that the community might be turned into drainage land. “All hell broke loose when we saw that green dot over Broadmoor,” recalled neighborhood association President LaToya Cantrell. Spurred by the threat of demolition, residents spent six months creating a comprehensive plan for Broadmoor’s recovery.
This plan laid the groundwork for one of the most remarkable neighborhood-based development initiatives in American history. Since June of 2006, Broadmoor residents have founded a 500 student community charter school, spearheaded a $30 million renovation of the neighborhood’s school building, raised funds for a $4 million renovation of their library, founded a community development corporation to purchase and renovate derelict properties, created a successful social services agency for needy residents, and restored 80% of the neighborhood’s properties.
As they spearheaded the neighborhood’s recovery, Broadmoor’s residents wove a tapestry of memorable stories. Father Jerry Kramer, a newly hired priest at the neighborhood’s sleepy Episcopal church, used his experiences from East Africa and his charismatic zeal to transform the parish into a booming relief operation and volunteer center. LaToya Cantrell, a young professional who had been neighborhood association president for less than a year, proved herself to be a force of nature, commanding the respect of Fortune 500 Executives, Harvard professors, and an ever-expanding cadre of returning residents. Hal Roark, a landlord who “loved his house but tolerated his neighborhood” before Katrina, surprised himself by jumping headfirst into Broadmoor’s long planning process. He devoted the next five years of his life to seeing the plan to fruition, and now enjoys relaxing at the Green Dot Café in Broadmoor’s newly-renovated library.