Pathscrossed Will Be Held in Westwego

Pathscrossed is a street party along Sala Avenue that will host three art exhibit openings in Westwego. Sala Avenue will be closed and there will be live music, a red-carpet reception for all and a possible appearance of fire dancers.

The organizer is artist Josh Wigerter, who is using the event as a  tribute to all the artists who’ve contributed to his successful career.  Wingerter is known for his art that was along Frenchman Street that is graffiti style and began during the pandemic lockdown. He wanted to create a display that was kind of like an outdoor art gallery.

He became well known for his portrait of Louis Armstrong with a mask, and Wonder Woman dressed as a vaccine-armed nurse. Wingerter grew up in Westwego and is starting an art colony so to speak in the community. The 37-year-old previously was in management at Home Depot and earned his degree in business at UNO so he knows the business side of things.

He struck a deal with Westwego to rent an abandoned two-story building that used to be a bank. He turned it into a gallery and studio that now is part of the old main area. Wingerter loves the area and **likes the intimate vibe of Sala Avenue and would like to see it grow into an art destination like Royal Street, without the crowds and complications of visiting the French Quarter.**

A big part of this event is to help artists with how to make a living through their art. Among other artists that will be featured at the street party will be Dago, Paco Lane, Monique Lorden and Aubrey McGuire. All of these artists want to embrace the cute little town and add some quirky flavor to Westwego.

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Land Beneath the Elevated West Bank Will No Longer Be an Eyesore

Everyone who goes on the elevated West Bank Expressway knows it is an eyesore but nothing has been done about it in the past because the state of Louisiana owns it. This might change as Jefferson’s legislative delegation plans to introduce a bill that would give control of the property to the parish. Currently, the land is covered with litter and is an undeveloped eyesore. The area beneath US 90, Terry Parkway and Garden Road is also used for homeless encampments.

“It always looks terrible. We need to be able to control our own fate,” says council member Ricky Templet.

The parish would like to see the land be put to good use as new parks, drainage infrastructure or buildings for retailers. “That’s a great place for economic development, and also, it can give the people of west Jefferson a better quality of life,” says state Rep. Timothy Kerner.

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A Donation for STEM NOLA

Boeing has given a $1 million dollar donation to STEM NOLA’s new project the New Orleans East science education building. The $15 million project is headed by Calvin Mackie who is STEM NOLA’s founder and CEO.

STEM NOLA was founded in 2013 and has expanded since its beginning in Mackie’s, a former engineering professor at Tulane University, garage. Mackie began the program with $100,000 of his own money. Since then, there have been several who have made donations to help the project grow and run. In fact, the US Department of Defense has granted $2.79 million so that the group can reach students across the Gulf Shore that are military connected.

The group now reaches kids from all around the New Orleans metro area providing them with weekly science tutorials. The groups will meet virtually, at parks in the area or during and after school programming. So far, the program has helped 125,000 students since its conception.

“We have to get our kids tinkering, building stuff with their hands, critically thinking, asking why it worked, why it didn’t work….. that’s gonna give rise to the mindsets and skills that are needed in the 21st century,” Mackie said.

The new science building will be built on property that was given to the STEM (acronym for science, technology, engineering and math by Oschner Health. The building will house classroom space and tons of up-to-date technology. So far STEM NOLA has not set a date for the groundbreaking.

So far, along with the $1 million from Boeing, the STEM group has been given $1.25 million from WK Kellogg Foundation, $1 million in CARES Act omey and $2 million in state capital outlay funding. The funds given from Boeing has helped with starting the process of fundraising for the building.

“For the children of New Orleans to have access to this type of space, and the type of equipment and this type of technology hopefully from cradle to career. I think we could change the trajectory of many families, if not the community,” says Mackie.

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Changes to the New Orleans Housing Market

A Bucktown resident put their house on the market in January hoping the nice three bedroom home would sell fast after witnessing the explosion of buyers in the housing market since the Pandemic. After sitting on the market for two weeks with no offers Roxanna Campos was surprisingly disappointed.

“I would have thought we’ have multiple offers by now. If we haven’t had any movement in the next week, we might have to rethink things,” said Campos.

Sellers across the country are facing this same situation. They are having to lower their asking prices and agree on concessions to buyers. In 2022 the volume of home sales was down, and homes were sitting on the market longer according to the Gulf South Real Estate Information Network.

Although home prices did keep rising even with the slow down in the market. In fact, the median sale price in the New Orleans metro area was up 7.8% year over year to $277,000. This was up 24% from the pre-pandemic that was reported at $219,400. The biggest drop in pending sales was in outlying Plaquemines, northern St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and the River parishes.

Why is New Orleans seeing a slowdown? This can be blamed on the rising interest rates, high inflation and the big jump in property and flood insurance rates.

“The insurance rates are literally killing deals. I had a quote for a $10,000 premium for property insurance on a 2,800-square-foot house in Metairie. We couldn’t do the deal. The buyer had to walk away from their dream house,” said broker Jiarra Rayford of Rayford Realty.

Even with the total inventory of homes for sale is up due to the cooler market, the home prices in the area are still reflecting the rise. In some areas, like St. Charles Parish, the home prices doubled. Tangipahoa had the biggest increase up 15%, St. Tammany up 11%, Orleans up 5.8%, and Jefferson was up 5.5%.

In the New Orleans metro area, homes that were priced between $224,000- $350,000 sold the quickest. The average days on the market for these homes was around 32 days. Many agents throughout the area are seeing a shift in sellers. They are being a bit more realistic about their pricing.

“It’s not like the market is dead,” Mirambell said. “I had nine offers last week on a house in Old Metairie. Another one in New Orleans had an escalation clause for $40,000 above list price. So, houses that are updated and have a lot of appeal are still flying off the shelf.”

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A New Orleans Riverfront Development Expansion Approved

The development that runs along the riverfront of Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to the Lower Garden District will be expanding. The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to extend a 47-acre special-zoning distract that allows relaxed height restrictions upriver.

The state owns a good bit of the district but the 16-acre add-on is owned by private owners. This includes property from Orange Street to Celest Street. The owners of this additional portion include Louis Lauricella and Brian Gibbs.

The new plan will also include more affordable housing that was not part of the original development. Now any residential development in the district will have 10% of the units dedicated to people who has an income less than 60% of the area’s median income. In addition, another 10% is set aside for those who do not exceed 120% of the median income.

In the new plan, there will also be a new multipurpose facility that will be located in the parking lot that is right across from the convention center at the Pontchartrain Expressway. Developers would like to see a facility that could potentially house a United Soccer League for New Orleans.

Currently, a great majority of the land is covered with tent encampments. The city wants to develop a plan to help relocate those that are living in tents on the land. “I’ve asked them to study whether or not there’s the feasibility of acquiring a hotel, or some other building to increase housing for people who are unhoused. We have so many abandoned properties, so many abandoned hotels. I think that there’s a possibility of rehabbing those,” explains District B Council member Lesli Harris.

The expanded development will house 900 mixed-income residential units worth around $250 million on the vacant Convention Center land. There will be around 850 apartment/hotel-style units, a hotel with 150 rooms, 400,000 square feet of office space and 140,000 square feet of retail. They will also build a linear park that will help with drainage and add space for public transit facilities.

The plan for the 16-acre parcel that is owned by the two private owners is still up in the air. The owners would like to convert the old power plant into an entertainment venue with a hotel and office space. Harris said this is still being looked at and is debatable whether the plans will be accepted.

“What I would like to do is keep the most impactful activities to the riverside so that it’s not really impeding into the neighborhood,” says Harris.

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