City officials and developers have big plans for Tulane Avenue. The rough patch of old Airline Highway will hold two new hospitals, and a planned biomedical corridor. It’s slated to have fewer lanes of traffic and new landscaping, too. But, change is slow. Some residents and business owners who have invested in the neighborhood feel let down by the seedy motels and high crime that persist on Tulane Avenue.
Nola.com and The Times-Picayune looked more closely at this part of the city in Sunday’s edition of the paper. WWNO News Director Eve Troeh spoke with reporter Richard Webster about his story.
Webster says Tulane Avenue's redevelopment differs from other streets like St. Claude Avenue and Lafitte because its six lanes of traffic hold less appeal for pedestrian traffic. The street used to be the main thoroughfare between New Orleans and the airport, hence the many hotels along the strip that have become magnets for criminal activity over time.
The announcement a few years ago that two hospitals would move into the area spurred interest and investment.
"Everyone saw this as a new beginning for Tulane Avenue," Webster says, "because with 17,000 workers coming in for the hospital the street would have all kinds of businesses moving in, and it would just really transform the avenue."
But illicit activity, particularly prostitution, has remained at many of the hotels that line the still-seedy stretch of road. That's threatening some businesses, like Avery's Po-Boys, that opened in hopes of capitalizing on the hospital crowd. Now they're feeling it could be hard to hold on until the first hospital opens in 2015.
Police acknowledge that prostitution poses a particularly tough crime-fighting challenge. The city may try tactics that helped Jefferson Parish clean up its section of Airline Highway, including safety and health ordinances.
Webster says the overall message seems to be that reinventing Tulane Avenue will take more time and effort than some early investors expected.
"I think it takes a whole coordinated approach, and not just opening a big hospital to make change," he says.