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New Orleans East and its residents must figure heavily in the redevelopment of Six Flags site. In fact, they must be central to this process. Period. No ifs, ands or buts about it. 

New Orleans East residents have waited far too long for the revitalization and renewal of the community to have a process go forward that does not carefully and purposefully consider their needs.

District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen is urging Mayor LaToya Cantrell to establish a community advisory committee to receive RFP responses on the former Six Flags site, which has the potential to be a strong economic engine to help revitalize New Orleans East and the entire City of New Orleans.   

“We are excited that action is taking place to get sustainable development on the 226 acres that were once a place that families enjoyed and provided job opportunities for residents,” Nguyen said in a statement. “While the process has not included community input and feedback, I am strongly recommending to Mayor LaToya Cantrell that she establish a Community Advisory Committee to receive the RFP Responses from Kiernan West & Bayou Phoenix.”  

Both groups—Kiernan West and Bayou Phoenix—were among six to respond to the City’s Request for Qualifications earlier this year. The two finalists are now waiting on an invitation from the City to submit RFPs.

Nguyen wants the Community Advisory Committee to host public review meetings to engage residents and make recommendations to the Review Selection Committee. More importantly, she wants that board to consist of New Orleans East residents–one representative each from Oak Island II subdivision, Oak Island I subdivision or Village de L’est Homeowners Association; New Orleans East Matters; East New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission (ENONAC); East New Orleans Business Development District (ENOBDD); and two members from the faith-based community.  

That would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Of course, we applaud Mayor LaToya Cantrell for moving forward on this project. The former Six Flags site has languished much too long; and because of that, just moving forward is not enough. There must be intentionality and a commitment to true community involvement. The residents of New Orleans East deserve to have their voices considered.

Redevelopment of the Six Flags has been a sticking point for political, business, and community leaders, as well as residents, with the neglected site serving as a stark reminder of the lack of revitalization in New Orleans East since Hurricane Katrina. The East was one of the areas of the city hardest hit by the devastating storm in 2005. The Six Flags site is in New Orleans East at the intersection of Interstate-10 and Interstate-510 that originally opened in 2000 as the $130 million Jazzland theme park. The amusement park was acquired by Six Flags in 2002, but did not reopen after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has remained closed for the last 16 years. 

The two very different proposals that have emerged as top contenders have now become another point of contention. Bayou Phoenix, led by local businessman Troy Henry in partnership with Hillside Development, a major development firm that will finance the project and serve as master developer, promises to bring jobs to the community with plans for an amusement park, restaurants, a hotel, a golf course, and residences. 

Henry says theirs is a proposal designed to respond to the needs of the community, adding that with backing from Hillside, Bayou Phoenix, would waste no time getting starting on the pre-design and ultimately the redevelopment of the site if their proposal is chosen.

“It was the fundamental basis of our decision-making process,” Henry says relative to how the plans would impact New Orleans East and its residents and the city as whole. “We wanted something transformative. It is what New Orleans East needs and its an offering that also enhances the city’s position as a tourism destination. I live in New Orleans East. We were responsive to the community. We know what they want. We’ve heard it for a long time.”

Drew Brees is the public face of the other proposal—an urban farming and educational center, by Kiernan West, LLC. and S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.

Of course, we have our thoughts on the two proposals. 

The Kiernan West/S.H.I.E.L.D proposal does not benefit the East, which leads us to question who or what is actually behind this proposal emerging as a top-two finalist out of the six originally submitted.

Somebody has to say it! So, we will. An urban garden on the former site of an amusement park in New Orleans East? Come again. 

New Orleans East needs a 226-acre urban farm with its own logistics and transportation hub just about as bad as it needed to be turned into “green space” after Hurricane Katrina. By the way, thank goodness that nefarious plan failed. 

When we consider what New Orleans East needs—good jobs and economic development that draws locals and visitors, we believe it would be absolutely insane to pass on the opportunity to bring just that. And we just don’t see how an “urban farm” could have the same impact as revitalizing the amusement park, building a sports complex, developing a hotel, restaurants, and retail shops. That’s the right formula to bring a long-awaited rebirth to the area.

As we understand it, many New Orleans East residents have also been vocal about their support of Bayou Phoenix because it fits the vision they have had for their community. 

It’s time to listen to the people and give them what they want and need!