NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Lots of people spent Sunday shopping! A new retail center opened along Claiborne Avenue. It's one residents say shows how far the city has come in the years since Katrina.
If the parking lot is any indication, the Magnolia Marketplace is going to be busy!
Shopper Terry Willis says, "It's wonderful, we don't have to travel all the way across the river or to Metairie so it's a great option."
Located on Claiborne at Louisiana, a portion of this land was part of the old C.J. Peete public housing complex, originally known as the Magnolia Complex. Much of it sat vacant after a new complex, Harmony Oaks, went up. "Seeing this here, after Katrina, it's looking better to me, right in this area," Willis said.
Sunday, a new T.J. Maxx store opened. Other retailers like Ross opened last week, and some places, like Michaels Arts and Crafts, will usher in new customers at the end of this week.
John Burris and Erica Nevius drove all the way from Chalmette to go to Pet Smart. "Yeah about 20 minutes, a lot better than driving all the way to the West Bank, going over the river and all that, paying a ferry," Nevius said.
The Magnolia Marketplace is the latest in a string of new retail strips opened in Orleans Parish, bringing in big box stores and chain restaurants. In 2013, the Mid-City Market welcomed over a dozen such stores. At the time, New Orleans City Councilwoman Susan Guidry said, "So where are the tax dollars going to be spent now? Right here in New Orleans."
The special thing about the site on Claiborne, it's not only bringing in money, but also providing opportunity to young people. "Every day we're out here, the neighborhood is like thank you for so much, for making this neighborhood so bright," said artist Paul Wright.
For the past four weeks, Wright and a couple other artists have worked hard on the mural which greets shoppers as they drive by the retail center. They work with YA/YA, an entrepreneur program for inner city youth artists. JCH Development coordinated with YA/YA to have some YA/YA artists paint the mural. For Wright, it's a personal mission. He explains, "It feels good because I was born and raised in this neighborhood and it's not too often that you see something great like this so I'm really happy that the neighborhood is up and coming."
Wright hopes to see even more growth, but this is certainly a good start.
The Magnolia Marketplace spans six and a half acres and is expected to create 200 new jobs.