Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS - For years, parts of Central City have been dotted with decay and riddled with crime. But neighbors have been working to change that. A vital stretch of the neighborhood is undergoing a major renaissance.
Phyllis Cassidy's Good Work Network is aimed at helping minority and female-owned businesses grow and succeed.
Now, she's helping a critical corridor do the same.
Cassidy recently bought and renovated the once blighted Franz Building on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. Her business moved in just last month.
"This particular building used to house African American and immigrant owned businesses," said Cassidy. "So we're really, really excited about, sort of bringing this building back to its original use and watching the rest of Oretha Castle Haley come back."
The Franz building will eventually include a bakery. The Good Work Network also offers "incubator offices" that start-up businesses can use.
Cassidy is just one of the people breathing new life into the vital Central City corridor.
Once a diverse, thriving center, Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard fell into decline. But that's beginning to change.
"Three years from now, you won't even recognize the place. It's going to be really, really awesome," said Cassidy.
"As you drive down Oretha Castle Haley, you're seeing the physical infrastructure, the transformation of physical infrastructure, that's really built on decades of work in planning, in relationship building," said Kysha Brown Robinson, executive director of the Central City Renaissance Alliance.
The Gulf Coast Housing Partnership is building an $18.5 million mixed use, mixed income housing development for seniors in the 1400 block of O.C. Haley. Right next door, an out-of-state developer recently purchased a decaying former school, McDonough 38, that burned in 2009, according to the Central City Renaissance Alliance. The organization didn't immediately know the plans for the building.
The old Dryades Market, now a blighted building in the 1500 block of O.C. Haley, will eventually become the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, which plans to move from its current location in Riverwalk. The multimillion dollar project is expected to be open in 2013.
"It's something that we're looking forward to, because we think we can be part of the revitalization of that neighborhood, and that's a good feeling," said Liz Williams, executive director and founder of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
Right now, the museum draws about 35,000 visitors a year.
But the new location won't just house a museum. Williams also plans to open a bar and restaurant in the building, with a cookbook a library across the street.
Williams said having the St. Charles streetcar line just three blocks away is another reason the museum plans to relocate.
She said the streets surrounding O.C. Haley Boulevard are also seeing new development.
"I'm pretty sure that that whole neighborhood is going to be transformed in this year that we have before we're there," said Williams.
There's still a long way to go, but those like Cassidy say their vision of breathing new life into a once blighted street is fast becoming a reality.
In the last two years, over 100 housing units have been built or planned on O.C. Haley boulevard.