Central Business District
Welcome to the bustling Central Business District, several distinct
neighborhoods rolled up together into one vibrant urban core. The
historic commercial heart of the city of New Orleans, Canal Street,
is alive 24 hours a day, with hotels, restaurants, shops, and its own
streetcar line taking tourists and residents along a beautiful stretch
of impressive historic structures. Picayune Place, a historic district
in the financial heart of the city, is dominated by offices and
residences, all within fine buildings over a century old. Lafayette
Square, anchored by Gallier Hall, New Orleans’ former City Hall, is a welcome greenspace downtown that hosts a free midweek concert series in the spring, and several diverse weekend festivals throughout the year. The Warehouse District has art galleries, world class museums, excellent restaurants and luxurious condos for lucky residents.
Part of the huge plantation allotted to New Orleans founder Jean Baptiste LeMoyne Siuer de Bienville in 1719, the lands comprising the CBD were sold to the Jesuits in 1723, then divided among several smaller landowners, including Bertrand Gravier and Delord Sarpy, in 1863. Gravier subdivided his lands in 1788, forming New Orleans’ first officially incorporated neighborhood, Faubourg St. Marie. With the construction of the First Presbyterian Church, the St. Charles Hotel and the St. Charles Theater, the new “American Sector” (so-called for the Americans who settled here) had begun to challenge the Vieux Carré as New Orleans’ financial and cultural center by the 1830s.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the CBD was a thriving commercial and retail center, and its growth continued after the Depression. But by
the 1960s, the Industrial Canal had rerouted port activity, and suburban shopping malls had emptied downtown. Highway construction further endangered the residential population; during this era, downtown was kept afloat by its proximity to the preserved French Quarter and stable uptown neighborhoods. In 1963, Poydras Street, once the site of a historic market, was widened to accommodate highrise office towers. The land speculation that followed saw entire blocks razed for office buildings and parking lots.
Preservationists organized in the 1970s to stop the demolition of 19th and early 20thcentury buildings and to encourage their renovation. They remain just as vigilant today. The City Council established the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission to govern the neighborhoods’ demolition and new construction in 1978. Since then, an incredible amount of private investment has seen the adaptation of historic commercial buildings into hotels, residences, offices and more. The Louisiana World Exposition of 1984 further revitalized the area, turning the sleepy Warehouse District into a vibrant neighborhood with art galleries, restaurants, hotels and residences. The National Register of Historic Places lists the CBD as two different districts: the Upper and Lower Central Business District.
Today, thanks to the visionary efforts of Michael Manjarris/Sculpture for New Orleans, you can find scores of world-class sculptures by local, national and internationally known artists throughout the CBD, including 22 on Poydras Street sponsored by the Helis Foundation.
With a cultural economic value of roughly $50 million, this effort has enhanced the fabric of the neighborhood significantly through an unprecedented display of public art in an urban setting post Katrina.
Many thanks to the Preservation Resource Center for providing this wonderful information! (www.prcno.org)