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The Magnolia Projects, officially the C.J. Peete Projects, also known as "Da Magnolia," was one of the Housing Projects of New Orleans. As part of the ongoing redevelopment, the area has been renamed Harmony Oaks. The project was among the largest, housing approximately 2,100 people. It is infamous nationwide for both its legendary violent-crime rates, as well as spawning a number of world-famous Hip Hop artists. They referred to it as "magnolia: home of the soldja." Located in the part of Uptown New Orleans known as Central City, it was bounded by Louisiana Avenue, South Claiborne Avenue, La Salle Street and Washington Avenue. The Magnolia Projects are located within the 11th and 12th Wards of New Orleans. At its height, the Magnolia projects had 1403 units.
The first part of the project was constructed in 1941, bordered by Louisiana Avenue, Magnolia Street, Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street. In 1955, the complex was expanded north past Clara Street, incorporating about six additional city blocks.
Toledano Street was re-aligned during the 1955 expansion, resulting in the disappearance of a three block long residential street named Belmont Place. The only remnants of Belmont Place are three houses facing Toledano before it joins with Louisiana Avenue.
During the Jim Crow laws era of racial segregation, the city's main medical care facility for African-Americans, Flint Goodridge Hospital, was on the southwest end of the Magnolia on Louisiana Avenue. The first three African American mayors of New Orleans were born at Flint Goodridge.
From 1952 through 1978, the manager was Cleveland Joseph Peete. In the 1980s and 1990s conditions in the projects have been neglected and declined severely. In 1998 demolition of portions of the projects began as part of a Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) revitalization plan.
By 2005, only the 1955 expansion had been razed. The majority of the remaining buildings were vacant and fenced off, with only a portion still occupied, when the area flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (see: Effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans). Redevelopment work has been delayed in the aftermath of the disastrous flood which devastated the majority of the city.
As of late 2008, the Magnolia Projects had been vacated and the majority of buildings razed.
On January 7, 2009, local, state, federal and HUD officials met to break ground on a new $183 million C.J. Peete community meant to replace the Magnolia Projects. The plans include 460 units, a Recovery School District school and YMCA in the first phase. 2/3 of the community will be mixed-use and mixed-income, with the rest being market value apartments and town homes.
In 2011, the rebranded Harmony Oaks community developed by McCormack Baron Salazar opened as a mixed-use community of 460 apartments and homes including public housing, low income and market-rate dwellings. The new Harmony Oaks, redeveloped on the old Magnolia Projects site, is located on some 41 acres southeast of the intersection of Claiborne and Louisiana Aves. The site is bounded by Washington Ave. to the east, LaSalle St. and Freret St. to the south, Louisiana and Toledano Aves. to the west, and S. Claiborne Ave. to the north. The redeveloped projects is a continuation of New Orleans' move towards new urbanism favoring urban neighborhood development over suburban sprawl.
It was one of the more notoriously very dangerous housing districts in the United States. The Magnolia Projects had the highest murder rate of any housing project in the city, even more than the Melpomene Projects and the Calliope Projects. This section of New Orleans had a local crime rate higher than many full municipalities in the United States and has had a significant influence in New Orleans' extremely high murder rate.
The various New Orleans housing projects are most notable for being the launching ground for Bounce Music and New Orleans Rap. The most well-known artists to come out of the Magnolia Projects are Birdman, the late Magnolia Shorty, Juvenile and Turk of the Hot Boys, a former rap group who started their careers on Cash Money Records, and rapper Jay Electronica. The label shot to fame in the late 1990s and still is popular today. Other popular artists from the area include Curren$y, Soulja Slim, Ruda Real, Paul Heiken, and Mr. Marcelo.
The district is often referred to as Magnolia or Nolia. The Magnolia has been the scene of Juvenile's hit song "Nolia Clap", a dance inspired solely by the Magnolia Projects. The Magnolia Projects has also been home to sculptor Willie Birch. The park on La Salle in the Projects, A.L. Davis Park, has long been a frequent site of brass band parades, and an important gathering site for Mardi Gras Indians tribes. Under the old name of "Shakespere Park" (originally commemorating New Orleans mayor Joseph A. Shakspeare) it is mentioned in the lyrics of Professor Longhair and Papa Celestin.
- "C.J. Peete redevelopment gets name". New Orleans CityBusiness. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2009.[dead link]
- Harmony Oaks, Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), January 2012.
- The architecture of New Orleans public housing, NOLA.com, February 13, 2011.
- Harmony Oaks Apartments official site
- Goldman Sachs video on Magnolia Projects re-development
- Magnolia Projects developer site
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