St. Thomas Development

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St. Thomas Development
St. Thomas Housing Projects
New Orleans Neighborhood
St. Thomas Projects, early 1940s
Country United States
State Louisiana
City New Orleans
Planning District District 2, Central City/Garden District
Elevation 7 ft (2.1 m)
Coordinates 29°55′34″N 90°04′21″W / 29.92611°N 90.07250°W / 29.92611; -90.07250Coordinates: 29°55′34″N 90°04′21″W / 29.92611°N 90.07250°W / 29.92611; -90.07250
Area 0.27 sq mi (0.7 km2)
 - land 0.23 sq mi (1 km2)
 - water 0.04 sq mi (0 km2), 14.81%
Population 1,091 (2010)
Density 4,041/sq mi (1,560/km2)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Area code 504

St. Thomas Development is a neighborhood of the city of New Orleans and a former Housing Projects of New Orleans. A sub-district of the Central City/Garden District area, its boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: Constance, St. Mary, Magazine and Felicity Streets to the north; the Mississippi River to the south; and 1st, St. Thomas, and Chippewa Streets, plus Jackson Avenue to the west.


St. Thomas Development is located at 29°55′34″N 90°04′21″W / 29.92611°N 90.07250°W / 29.92611; -90.07250 [1] and has an elevation of 7 feet (2.1 m).[2] According to the United States Census Bureau, the district has a total area of 0.27 square miles (0.7 km2). 0.23 square miles (0.6 km2) of which is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2) (14.81%) of which is water.

Adjacent Neighborhoods[edit]


The City Planning Commission defines the boundaries of St. Thomas Development as these streets: Constance Street, St. Mary Street, Magazine Street, Felicity Street, the Mississippi River, 1st Street, St. Thomas Street, Chippewa Street and Jackson Avenue.[3]


As of the census of 2000, there were 2,957 people, 834 households, and 608 families residing in the neighborhood.[4] The population density was 12,857 /mi² (4,928 /km²). As of the census of 2010, there were 2,161 people, 1,001 households, and 471 families residing in the neighborhood.[4]


The St. Thomas Housing Project was one of the oldest housing projects of New Orleans. It was bordered by St. Thomas Street to the south, a service alley between Constance and Laurel Streets to the north, Felicity Street to the east, and Josephine Street to the west. St. Thomas housing development was originally designated for white occupants only. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all of the city’s public housing projects were desegregated. At that time, the residents were a group of racially diverse, low-income, working-class families. In the mid/late 60s, many of these families were forced out when the federal government decided that their income was too high. At the same time, there was a decrease in social services in the housing developments – a decrease many attribute to the money going into the Vietnam war.[5] The exodus of industry from the inner city plunged the St. Thomas residents into great poverty, and subsequent White flight meant that, in recent years, residents have been primarily African American. Living conditions and crime became a problem during the mid-1970s when Heroin flooded the project. Problems in St. Thomas continued throughout the '80's and '90's. In 1996, the Housing Authority of New Orleans received a H.U.D. Hope VI grant to demolish and rebuild the area. The grant included the costs of relocating the nearly 3,000 then-residents to other properties. By the end of 2001, all of the buildings except a few had been demolished to create a mixed-income neighborhood named "River Garden." A section of Chippewa Street was re-aligned in the process. Also, a new Wal-Mart superstore was constructed on long-vacant property one block south of the former project site.[6]

Construction of the rental property was completed in early 2009, with a final phase of construction focusing on condominiums and ground floor retail space. The plans for condominiums did not materialize and were substituted with additional subsidized rental property. Single-family housing was built near the center of the development. HRI, the developer, built approximately one-third of the planned number of single-family homes. At the time of the writing, there were no plans to finish this aspect of the River Garden neighborhood.

Sister Helen Prejean, a Roman Catholic nun, lived in St. Thomas Housing Project in the 1980s. While living there, she became pen pals with convicted killer Patrick Sonnier. Her experiences with Sonnier and other inmates on death row, recorded in her book Dead Man Walking, served as the basis for the feature film and opera. Scenes in the movie version were filmed on location at St. Thomas; Prejean was portrayed by Susan Sarandon.

Crime and Violence[edit]

St. Thomas Housing Development was known as New Orleans most dangerous housing project in the early 1980s. Most residents boarded up their windows to prevent stray bullets from coming through. Police where also hesitant driving through St. Thomas and would often avoid passing down St Thomas Street for their safety.[7] In 1989, a stray bullet killed a 5-year-old boy and injured a girl. The bullet was intended for someone else but smashed into a 4-year-old girls shoulder while she played in a courtyard at a birthday party. Another 4-year-old girl, was hit in the stomach as she played on her porch; and 8-year-old girl was hit in the legs with a shotgun blast.[8] In 1991, St. Thomas led all of the housing projects in violent crime, according to the Housing Authority. From 1987 and 1991, St. Thomas tenants reported 48 murders, 27 rapes, 370 robberies and 638 assaults.[9][10]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]