Ten years after Hurricane Katrina severely damaged New Orleans, the city finally won a Housing and Urban Development infrastructure grant last Jan. 21 amounting to $141 million. Nola reported that the city plans to use this money to transform one of its neighborhoods into a "resilience district."

After much deliberation, Gentilly was chosen to be the model project. While many areas in the city face the same flooding problem, Gentilly's water plan won because authorities saw these could be replicated around the country where storm water is a serious issue.

In the past, the government has attempted to solve flooding by using manmade solutions such as levees and concrete infrastructure. Now, Gentilly Resilience District aims to address the problem by working with nature, instead of working against it.

According to Curbed, since Gentilly used to be a swampy marshland, the land has sunk between 8 and 9 feet below sea level, creating unsteady soil that damage its roadways. The alternative fix is to design passive solutions that allow land to absorb water, as opposed to pumping it out.

"Weak soils require strong governments," architect David Waggoner explained. "It's about controlling the groundwater level in these marsh-like landscapes, and you need someone to look out and watch how it's developed." 

Other measures include lining the neighborhood with a new system of pedestrians and ecological corridors. By surrounding them with swales and tree canopies, the sidewalks will be able to soak up water. Since excess water will now be absorbed into the soil, even dirt and pollution will be expected to decrease.

Additionally, Gentilly's Mirabeau Water Garden will be landscaped and converted into a public recreation venue. Walls will be demolished to open up waterways while providing recreational activities for the people such as boat rides and such.

"The question architecturally for New Orleans is a question of density," says Waggonner. "When we prioritize trees and canopy and parkland, it creates a cluster of human activity and can help redevelop the area."

The Gentilly Resilience District is a long-term proposal, expected to be completed in 2022. If successful, it aims to be the model for other cities across the country as well.

"With climate change projections, we only see more water coming," Jeff Herbert, the city's Chief Resilience Officer. "This is a national issue. It's not, 'woe is New Orleans, another Katrina might wipe it away.' Rising sea levels is an issue for Baltimore, Boston... many more will have to confront this issue."