PRC’s new speaker series to inspire hope for the City of New Orleans

This story appeared in the February/March issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!

New Orleans feels like a city of opposites these days: Constant complaints about crime and lack of basic city services on one hand; the joy and revelry of the Carnival season on the other. There’s a lot to love — and to lament.

Though some shrug off the potholes and the car break-ins as the price of loving New Orleans — or as a temporary inconvenience that will pass — others have given up on living here. U.S. Census data shows that Louisiana lost 37,000 residents between July 2021 and July 2022. And the New Orleans Data Center estimates that Orleans Parish lost 7,000 residents between 2020 and 2021 — the first population decline that it has experienced post-Hurricane Katrina.

This is bad news. For New Orleans to survive, we need a population that is willing to invest their lives and livelihoods here.

Now for some good news. The city still is seeing large-scale investment and innovation. Much of it is happening behind the scenes, so many residents are unaware of this transformational work. But if they were, it would give them hope.

And that’s what New Orleans’ residents need right now: hope.

We need to believe that our city will be safer, more convenient, more equitable in the future. We need to believe that raising our children here, or retiring here, is a smart thing to do. We need to know that this place does have a future — a vibrant future.

So, the PRC has designed a new speaker series to do just that: give hope. Preserving New Orleans’ Future will showcase the innovation and investment happening right now to give us all confidence to continue loving — and living in — New Orleans.

Our first speaker was Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of the Water Institute of the Gulf, who kicked off our series on Jan. 27. In his talk, “Preservation and Opportunity: The Importance of Water Management in New Orleans,” Ehrenwerth explained, in lay terms, how the Army Corps of Engineers’ massive investment in the city’s levee system in recent years has made New Orleans better protected than many other coastal places. But he also revealed our vulnerability: In creating walls to keep outside water from penetrating the city, we’ve created a bowl that must drain well to minimize flooding from massive storms. His findings made clear that better collaboration from city and state entities, with help from civic leaders, is necessary to make the changes we need to best protect New Orleans from flooding moving forward.

How is that good news? Well, contrary to popular belief, New Orleans is actually ahead of many other cities in making climate adaptations that position us to be a smart city and leader as the nation faces unprecedented climate shifts.

Our next speaker, on Feb. 10 at 8:30 a.m., will be Asante Salaam, executive director of The Helis Foundation John Scott Center. Salaam will show off the new center, which has transformed the first floor of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ historic headquarters into an interactive cultural experience to educate and inspire international visitors. This transformative investment by the Helis Foundation is a statement in our city’s future vibrancy and the importance of art and culture. Salaam will speak at the John Scott Center, 938 Lafayette St., so people can experience the space as they hear her presentation. Click here to learn more & RSVP.

Our March speaker, Jayson Seidman, is a developer whose hotels you know and love. The Drifter, Hotel St. Vincent and the newly renovated Columns Hotel have been bright spots on the city’s hospitality scene in recent years. Seidman’s aesthetic and approach to hospitality is a winning combination that has benefitted our city tremendously — and he isn’t done. He is embarking on two new projects: a new-construction hotel on St. Charles Avenue and a project in the French Quarter near Jackson Square. Seidman has invested in several other places, including Marfa, Tex., Austin and New York City. So, why does he continue to invest in New Orleans? What promising metrics gives him confidence in our city’s future success? He will speak at the PRC at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, March 31. Click here to learn more & RSVP.

Future speakers to be announced soon, but rest assured, they’ll be great.

The events will be held on Fridays at 8:30 a.m. and will include coffee and pastries. Admission is free for PRC members and $10 for nonmembers. Learn more and register here.

As the leader of an organization formed by passionate, civically engaged citizens who came together to protect our city’s built treasures, it’s clear to me that losing residents will harm our ability to preserve New Orleans’ historic architecture, neighborhoods and cultural identity. To keep our city authentic, we need a population that cares.

We hope to see you at our new breakfast series. We promise to leave you inspired and confident about the future of New Orleans. We must work together to preserve and ensure a bright future for our historic and beloved city.


Preserving New Orleans’ Future Breakfast Series

Arts, Culture and the Economy, Feb. 10, 8:30 a.m.
The Helis Foundation John Scott Center, 938 Lafayette St.
Learn more & RSVP
Hospitality Investment in New Orleans, March 31, 8:30 a.m.
The Preservation Resource Center, 923 Tchoupitoulas St.
Learn more & RSVP