Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                

July 1, 2015


Media Contact: Mary Beth Romig                                     

                             Director of Communications



Ribbon cutting at Academy Park Urban Forest                                       


New Orleans East Site Marks 1,000 Vacant Lots Converted into Purposeful Alternative Land Use Projects under NORA’S Land Stewardship Department

New Orleans, LA — Officials from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) were joined this morning by Councilmember James Gray, District E and residents of the Academy Park subdivision in New Orleans East in cutting the ribbon on the Academy Park Urban Forest.

Also in attendance were James “Jim” Singleton, Chairman of NORA’s Board of Commissioners, Emily Bullock and Wes Michaels from Spackman, Mossop, and Michaels, the landscape architecture firm that designed the urban forest and Nathaniel Scales from Garden Doctors, the company responsible for the project’s construction and installation.

This one-of-a-kind green space designed by Spackman, Mossop, and Michaels (landscape architecture firm) is the result of collaboration between NORA and the Academy Park Development Association on five (5) contiguous vacant lots that are in NORA’s inventory.  With the completion of the project, these five (5) contiguous parcels mark 1,000 vacant lots converted to purposeful alternative land use under the auspices of NORA’s Land Stewardship Department.

The urban forest is the result of a three-year partnership initiated by Lawrence Banks and his wife, Barbara, residents of Academy Park subdivision whose home has a front-row view of the now developed urban forest across the street on Chantilly Drive.

Mr. Banks approached NORA with a concept for how he believed the space could be developed into an attractive, forested stretch of land that could be enjoyed by the entire community.

“This project is truly the result of citizen-driven activism in terms of neighborhood beautification and what can result from creative collaboration and thinking in new ways about how vacant land can be used smarter, to the benefit of a community,” said Jeff Hebert, NORA’s Executive Director. “New Orleans was left with so many properties and vacant lots almost a decade ago and this stretch of five (5) contiguous lots converted into a serene urban forest is a great example of what good can come from unfortunate events.”

This project is also important in that these five (5) contiguous lots mark 1,000 vacant parcels that through NORA’s Land Stewardship Department have been converted into purposeful spaces and alternative land use projects through our Growing Home and Growing Green Programs. 


The urban forest includes 216 trees, an irrigation system, French drain, stormwater management grading, a limestone pathway, horizontal picket fencing and two signature NORA benches. Through an agreement with NORA, the urban forest will be maintained by NORA and Mr. Banks for the first year and by Mr. Banks thereafter.

“I envisioned planting a few trees that would turn colors in the fall, but did not have the vision or idea that we could have as many trees and as many varieties as we have,” said Banks. “What NORA did was take my vision, simple as it was, and expand upon it, creating something far bigger and better than I could not have ever imagined. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to partner with an organization that had a sense of collaboration about changing the landscape and having a commitment – a spirit – that we can do better with land use.”

The specific species of trees that will ultimately provide the desired fall colors include Nuttall Oak, Willow Oak, Ginkgo Bald Cypress, Swamp Red Maple, Forest Pansy Eastern Redbud, Southern Magnolia and Sweetbay Magnolia.

“NORA’s Board is pleased to support this kind of alternative land use project,” said Chairman Singleton. “We appreciate Mr. Banks approaching us with this idea which keeps in step with NORA partnering with citizens to make positive improvements to their neighborhoods.”

“We hope this urban forest will provide natural beauty and happiness to our neighbors and serve as an inspiration to others,” said Banks. “Neighborhoods should be more than bricks, mortar and concrete. They should be the best of both worlds, where greenery and trees are valued more.”

“There is much to be learned from this project, we certainly hope this urban forest can be an inspiration to others across our community in thinking about how vacant urban green space can be celebrated and utilized in ways that can bring beauty and sustainability to our entire city,” added Hebert.


The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority is a catalyst for the revitalization of the city, partnering in strategic developments that celebrate the city’s neighborhoods and honor its traditions.



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