The chairman of the U.S.’s largest bookseller, New Orleans officials and other recovery leaders participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking for a $20 million housing initiative. Barnes & Noble Chairman Leonard Riggio is funding the expansive project to build new houses for residents displaced by the storm 2 1/2 years ago, focusing on the Gentilly neighborhood.”Project Home Again,” a plan to build 20 new, elevated houses for lower-income families, is believed to be the largest single philanthropic project in the city since Hurricane Katrina. Under the plan, Gentilly residents who lived in the racially diverse, mixed-income neighborhood at least two years before Katrina and who still own property there would swap their uninhabitable, storm-damaged homes or empty lots for new houses. Those families then would get forgivable mortgages, over five years, before owning the new houses outright.
Officials hope to begin construction as early as this spring and complete work on the homes within a year. Riggio said he and his wife, after seeing the devastation wrought by Katrina, felt that citizens had a responsibility to reach out and help those affected. Their goal was not just to build one scattered house at a time but to build community.