Ports & Terminals

Port NOLA Adopts Plan For Economic Revitalization Of Inner Harbor

The board of commissioners of the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) adopted a plan at its April 23 meeting for the economic revitalization and future development along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, which connects the Mississippi River at the city’s Holy Cross neighborhood and Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the eastern reach of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

“Together with the board of commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, I am pleased to share the Port Inner Harbor Economic Revitalization Plan (PIER Plan), a collaborative vision to revitalize the Inner Harbor District, increase commercial activity and create quality jobs for area residents,” Port NOLA President and CEO Brandy Christian said in announcing the plan. “Port NOLA’s role as a port authority is to plan, build, maintain and support infrastructure that grows jobs and economic opportunities related to trade and commerce.”

Following the release of the port’s master plan in 2018, Port NOLA launched development of the PIER Plan, which was funded by a $200,000 planning grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant program.

Besides EPA, key partners in developing the plan included the city of New Orleans, Regional Planning Commission (RPC), Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.

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“Evolution in global shipping trends, changes in investment strategies and multiple natural disasters have left the port’s Inner Harbor in need of a new plan that aligns with our strategic vision and supports our economic mission,” Christian said. “We know that revitalization and future development cannot be done in a vacuum, so collaboration is at the core of the PIER Plan as well. True to our values, we engaged and worked with a diverse range of stakeholders, including government agencies, industry, tenants and neighboring communities as hands-on, strategic partners.”

The proximity of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain at the site of New Orleans was a determining factor in Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de\Bienville establishing the city in 1718, and the vision of a ship channel between the two dates back more than 250 years to the city’s Spanish colonial period. Construction on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, known locally, simply, as the Industrial Canal, began in 1918 and was completed five years later.

The growth of the size of ships over the years following, though, diminished the viability of the Inner Harbor during the mid-20th century, which led to construction of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO), a deepwater short cut between the canal and the Gulf of Mexico, which was completed in 1965. The MRGO, though, never lived up to expectations and was ultimately closed after it was blamed for funneling Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge into St. Bernard Parish and portions of Orleans Parish in 2005. A rock dam across the MRGO effectively closed the route in 2009.

The PIER plan builds on existing leases and potential catalyst sites to develop a long-term vision for the Inner Harbor that includes a maritime recreational area to the north, packaging and processing facilities above the canal’s intersection with the GIWW, intermodal and recycling campuses toward the southern end and an eastern cargo campus along the GIWW heading east.

To accomplish that, the plan sets forth four goals or strategies: design and build catalyst projects to drive investment in the area; foster opportunities in targeted sectors, and develop strategic regional partnership; eliminate barriers to redevelopment to remove potential contamination and enhance access; and leverage resources to identify off-port and workforce strategies to benefit both operators and neighboring communities.

Christian said the goal is to redevelop the Industrial Canal into a cohesive district that is not only successful economically but also impacts the prosperity of the surrounding community and the region as a whole.

“The PIER Plan sets a course for redevelopment and investment in the Inner Harbor that reverberates economic prosperity beyond port property and throughout the entire region,” Christian said.