NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Alexander Phillips watched Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard change from a bustling thoroughfare to a barren stretch.
"Everything went away," he says "Just the cars passing by, that's all."
Now the road in the heart of Central City is experiencing a rebirth.
Musicians and city leaders broke ground Tuesday on what's slated to be a showplace for the music born in New Orleans.
Construction is underway to transform the old Gators department store into the New Orleans Jazz Market.
The nearly 14,000-square-foot facility will be home to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, a digital archive, walk of fame and a stage for performances from musicians like Irvin Mayfield.
"As many times as I drove past this place, one when it wasn't open, just kind of dilapidated space sitting here, [then] back when it was Gators," says Mayfield. "I used to actually get my hair cut down the street at Harry's Barber Shop literally a block away, and I thought to myself I never would have imagined that this would have been the most important space that I would build in my career."
Mayfield says the market will feature a community space with free WiFi and be open to everyone who wants to learn and experience jazz.
Council member LaToya Cantrell says the challenge for city leaders is, as they fix up neighborhoods, to make sure that the people who live there don't get priced out.
"That is a priority for the city to not only revitalize commercial corridors and also the housing aspect, but we have to find balance to ensure that the people that have lived in the community for generations still find themselves comfortably home in their own neighborhood," she says.
Cantrell hopes the Jazz Market will help bring a new, positive light to a part of the city plagued by violence.
After witnessing so many changes over the years, Phillips thinks the future of the boulevard will be bright.
"They put something there, it will be exciting, I think," he says.
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