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15 years after Katrina | New Orleans East residents want more redevelopment, group says

'We know the East was a vibrant place before Katrina, and for 15 years, we have sat through this. We've tried to be patient. We're no longer going to be patient.'

NEW ORLEANS — Members of a New Orleans East civic group said they want to see change in their community.

They gathered on the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that took lives, destroyed property, and hit the New Orleans East community in ways that it has yet to recover from.

Members with New Orleans East Matters, a coalition with businesses and churches, met at the former Lake Forest Plaza on Saturday to hold a rally.

"It was once a thriving shopping center. I can remember the ice skating rink,"   group member Tangee Wall said.

People who attended, like Gregory Pierce, noted long-awaited development in East New Orleans.

Pierce has lived in New Orleans East since 1996, and he said he's happy to see new businesses like PJ's Coffeeshop and an entertainment facility, Optimus, open before coronavirus stay-at-home orders took effect.

RELATED: PJ's Coffee shop opens on Read Boulevard in New Orleans East

"There are things that still need to be done," Pierce said. "But the progress that's been done has been great." 

Other signs of life include Dixie Beer and a new senior facility, Lake Forest Senior Manner, which will be housed in an apartment complex that hasn't been touched since Hurricane Katrina.

"We've got good partners. We are at the table at all times. We're not walking away. We have a couple of things I'm still cooking in the kitchen. We're putting all the ingredients together, and I can't wait to put in in the oven," Councilwoman Cyndi Ngyuen stated.

Another member with New Orleans East Matters, Eric Jones, is pushing to bring big business back to New Orleans East.

He said he wants to rebuild a new Lake Forest Plaza in place of the new one.

"For 15 years, we've seen the same sore spots: Vacant, dilapidated homes. We see all of that, right?" Jones asked rhetorically. "We know the East was a vibrant place before Katrina, and for 15 years, we have sat through this. We've tried to be patient, we're no longer going to be patient. Redevelop, rebuild, recreate and re-tool."

The Lake Forest Plaza was once the largest shopping center in the state when it opened in 1973. The mall had already begun its decline when it flooded during Hurricane Katrina, but the storm was its final demise. 

RELATED: Demolition begins at Grand Theater in New Orleans East

RELATED: The Forgotten East: Blight

The group hopes to see development for the new Lake Forest Plaza by 2022.

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