Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS - From his Gert Town porch, Solomon Reese is watching his neighborhood transform before his eyes.
"It's coming back good, it's coming back real good," said Reese, who has lived in his Gert Town home for about 40 years.
The latest development, Blue Plate Artist Lofts, officially opened Thursday.
The energy efficient building is home to 72 mixed income apartments, all of which have been leased. Developers hope the $25 million renovation of the old condiment factory on S. Jefferson Davis Parkway will spur even more development in the area.
"We think that artists are the catalysts for neighborhood and economic development," said Tara Hernandez, co-owner of the complex and developer with JCH Development.
Hernandez said the thought behind the building was combining the old with the new, and she hopes the same happens with the neighborhood, preserving its history while breathing new life into it.
"Our goal is community," said Hernandez. "We have come together to really be supportive of each other and to create great things for the community and for the neighborhood."
The lofts are just another sign of development in an area that was full of post-Katrina blight. A nearby office building on Earhart Boulevard was once a decaying property nicknamed the "toilet building" because the restroom was exposed. Next door, a seafood restaurant stands where a blighted lot used to be. Xavier University is also spearheading new construction in the area. And the city recently finished paving the roadway and extending the bike lane.
"The process was slow, then after a while it just took off. We had to first bring back businesses and things in order to be able to support living conditions, and with that everything else kind of sky rocketed," said Diana Bajoie, interim council woman for District B.
But there's still a long way to go. Just behind the Blue Plate Artist Lofts, blighted homes continue to decay. Down the street, an old commercial building sits empty. But those like Reese believe the neighborhood will continue to come back.
"It'll continue to get better," said Reese. "You [will] continue to get good people into the neighborhood."
Developers said the next step for the area. Could be more retail. They said the neighborhood is especially appealing to artists because it's a cultural district, meaning, they can sale their work without sales tax.