Situated between the streets of Nashville, Toledano, S. Claiborne, Washington, and Jefferson Davis Parkway is the Broadmoor neighborhood. Just around the corner from this neighborhood is the Broadmoor Development Corporation where I have been interning. Our office is currently on the only commercial street within the neighborhood, surrounded by various other food and clothing stores, as well as another partner Green Coast Enterprises. The office is very small and only consists of three permanent staff members, the director Chago Burgos, director of operations Diana Searl, finance administrator Avram Penner, and my supervisor Amy Biedermann who is a Tulane Americorps vista researching grants for the BDC. It has been a pleasure learning and working with this organization and within in the Broadmoor neighborhood each week. While working with the BDC I have seen the amount of time, effort, and patience that goes into creating and maintaining a successful non-profit, which as an international development major with a minor in social innovation is precisely what I need to study. The people in the community are so friendly and always appreciative of the services the BDC provides, and in turn makes me happy to work there.
In 2006 the Broadmoor Development Corporation (BDC) was founded a year after Hurricane Katrina by the Broadmoor Improvement Association. The BIA is an existing neighborhood association that was founded during 1930 in the Broadmoor neighborhood. Their mission is to collaborate with residents in building a neighborhood that is “Better Than Before”. This refers to the neighborhood post Katrina before reconstruction. In order to help accomplish this mission in 2006, the BIA created the BDC to focus specifically on post-Katrina housing recovery plans for neighborhood residents.
To follow the “Better Than Before” mission, the BDC produced flood resilient and efficient housing, a place of central education, a community center, and a safe and secure living environment for all of its residents. The BDC under the BIA secured 40 million dollars in resources for the restoration of the Andrew H. Wilson Charter School and the Rosa Keller Library in the community. The residents, along with the BDC and BIA saw the restoration of these historic properties as essential for the community to thrive in Broadmoor. And in fact many of the affordable properties owned by the BDC are now in close proximity to the school and library.
The mission of the BDC is to “enhance the economic well-being of the Broadmoor neighborhood, and to eradicate blight in the neighborhood by using a block tipping strategy and promoting private investment in the neighborhood”. Since Katrina the BDC has helped to recover 87% of all Broadmoor properties, of which 100 % had flooded 6-10 feet during Katrina. (BDC) From various funding through grants and donors the first time homebuyers program can offer up to $65,000 in loan subsidies for owners. With houses ranging from about $130,000 to $235,000, having such a large portion of the mortgage covered is a blessing for most low to moderate-income families. Not only has the BDC taken steps to eradicate blight in the neighborhood, but also they provide equal access to housing to families that lacked this opportunity pre-Katrina.
The BDC organization provides a service to its residents that were desperately needed after the hurricane. Like many other communities that flooded in New Orleans, houses were ruined, people were displaced, and at a certain point it seemed as if the community would not return. Shortly after the hurricane the mayor Ray Nagin created the Bring New Orleans Back Commission a plan aspiring to provide advice and planning on the rebuilding of New Orleans. In one of the earliest maps, the Broadmoor neighborhood was a green dot on the map, land proposed to be a new park for the city. The residents were outraged by this proposal, rightfully so, and organized protests and City Hall meetings to dispute this government plan to displace them from their homes. This was a true inspirational grass roots movement that demonstrated how much pride this community has and how a disaster would not prohibit them from returning to their homes. Broadmoor’s story is one of amazing inspiration for a community in the wake of such hardship. So many families like them across New Orleans were not able to return to their homes because the commute was unfortunately too costly. Below is an image of a house for sale in Broadmoor and the impact map of houses built or projects under development in the community.
One of the best things about working in a community such as Broadmoor is the chance to learn about the recovery process after Hurricane Katrina. This city is still being rebuilt eight years later and in some places houses and buildings stay stuck in time with crumbling foundations, boarded up doors, and overgrown yards. Many of these properties are blighted or unoccupied but habitable and in fact decrease the value of homes surrounding them. While there have been large efforts to reduce blighted properties since Hurricane Katrina and blight is reducing, there are still a number of vacant but habitable units that remain on lots. A large precursor of blight is an abandoned property and can seriously decrease home values in an area. (GNOCDC) Blight and abandoned homes are a huge deterrence to neighborhood improvement and development, and the process taken to obtain one of these properties can take anywhere from six months to a couple of years.
However, organizations like the BDC and other housing development corporations are taking steps to eradicate blight in the neighborhood by obtaining these properties and developing new homes there. They also have help from community members that report blight, partner organizations that hold builds in the neighborhood, and volunteers that survey the neighborhood and clear lots through various projects. I asked my supervisor Amy a few questions about the importance of volunteers and public service to the organization. She responded,
-“As the BDC is a tiny nonprofit operating in a dramatically changing landscape (housing in New Orleans is not getting the same attention it was 8-5 years ago immediately after Katrina in terms of available funding), we could not continue to support Broadmoor’s redevelopment without volunteers committed to public service. Volunteers and unpaid interns fill a gap that exists in our organization due to limited funds and resources and their assistance frees up time for staff to work on the projects that our beneficiaries need in order to get by.”
My work throughout this semester has been to do research on blight and familiarize myself with the Broadmoor Development Corporation. I have been taking on the task of organizing old documents from years previous as well as scanning checks into the computer filing system. Though this process is tedious, I understand what Amy says in that the work I complete for them frees up time for the staff to complete more important projects. Building more houses and eradicating blight in Broadmoor is much more important.
I have been learning more about finance and reading grants that demonstrate proper rhetoric used to write a successful grant. For an organization that began only seven years ago, the BDC has grown tremendously and changed so many people’s lives for the better. The BDC is a registered 501c (3) community development corporation (CDC), which is considered a Non-governmental Organization more commonly known as an NGO. As an international development or international studies major one of the common career paths to take after college is to work for a local NGO or non-profit organization. I do not have a particular organization in mind but I wish to work for one in New Orleans after graduating from Tulane. And as public service and volunteers are almost essential to make all non-profits and NGO’s function, I think it is a huge part of who I am and what my career will be in the future.
“Housing New Orleans.” Broadmoor Development Corporation. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://broadmoorcorp.com/>.
“Optimizing Blight Strategies.” Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. N.p., 26 Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. <http://www.gnocdc.org/>.