Does New Orleans Need a New Tourism Icon?

The centerpiece of a $500 million plan for redeveloping New Orleans' riverfront is an 'iconic' sculpture, replacing the empty World Trade Center tower. Roberta Brandes Gratz argues the city should focus on small steps instead of a tourism boondoggle.

"In his mid-April rollout of a sweeping plan to redevelop the downtown riverfront, Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke excitedly of replacing the World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street with a monumental tourist attraction — something, he said, on a par with the Gateway Arch in St. Louis," writes Gratz. "A bit of education might dissuade the mayor from collapsing into the arms of that old-time and now thoroughly discredited style of 'urban renewal.'”

In the ensuing opinion piece, she provides a cautionary tale of the unfulfilled economic promises delivered by the St. Louis landmark, and describes the lessons for New Orleans. 

"First, New Orleans does not need an iconic sculpture on the waterfront, even assuming it could land one as beautiful as Saarinen’s arch," she argues. "The French Quarter and the larger city itself are all the iconic attraction the city needs. No other American city has what New Orleans already has, having evolved organically, the only way authentic cities grow."

"[W]hile advocates of big projects focus on outsized, misguided visions, New Orleans is rebounding incrementally through innovative efforts all over town, proving once again that small and modest projects always exceed expectations while the big ones never fulfill theirs."

Full Story: Monumental mistake: Demolishing World Trade Center to build a tourist attraction

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