New Orleans
Neighborhood Portraits

The Marigny

“In 1975, when the Faubourg Marigny was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the neighborhood began a surge of revitalization. According to New Orleans City Business’ January 2002 profile of the neighborhood: 'On the one hand, new investment in the area over the last 20 years has almost eliminated blighted housing ... and driven property values skyward. On the other, gentrification that has pushed lower-income residents out of the neighborhood and new commercial development pressures threaten to change the character of the district, some say. ‘It’s a lot less blue-collar than it used to be,’ says Julian Mutter, a Marigny homeowner since the late 1970s. Now, there are more artists, gay couples and retirees than dockworkers, shopkeepers and young families, he says.'” (from The New Orleans Data Center)

Sean and Shannon

Sean: We moved here—it’s been two years.

Shannon: Yeah. May of ‘16.

Sean: It’s a neighborhood that we were interested in. We used to come here a lot when we lived Uptown, lived in Mid-City.

Shannon: Music. Frenchmen Street is our draw.

Sean: We moved back to New Orleans in 2012. I’m retired Coast Guard, so I was originally stationed down here in the 90s. Neither one of us are originally from New Orleans. We’re actually both are from the Washington DC area.

Shannon: We absolutely love it. We will call it home. We lived Uptown, lived in Mid-City and we lived here. And we always would come down to this area for entertainment. We love the music. So, I saw this house—I’m a realtor here in New Orleans—saw the house listed and we made an offer ‘sight unseen,’ well on the inside anyways. It was purple and orange and that’s like our favorite colors! [laughs]. Anyway, we knew it was our house the moment we laid eyes on it. And we’re going to plan a renovation here shortly, adding a Camelback renovation. So, you know, maintaining the integrity and the history. We learned a lot about the house as well, so we want to bring out the transoms, bring transoms back, the old sinks, and the old tubs, and things like that. We put gas lanterns on the front as well, made by Bevolo, which is like the company that is probably the longest-running lighting and gas lighting company since the 1800s. We brought back the fireplaces, so we wanted to bring it back and not cover anything up.  We love the Marigny, and we love the vibe. It’s really down to earth. It just spoke to us.

Sean and Shannon's house

Sean: I think it’s coming back, especially after—I was in the Coast Guard when Katrina hit and I got flown down here because I knew the area, I spent seven years down here, knew a lot of players, and that’s of course what we do. Spent four months in a trailer in Baton Rouge and flew in and out of New Orleans through the recovery of the initial stuff. There was a lot of lives saved, you know, not just Coast Guard. A lot of local folks. A lot of people from the neighborhood, people go outside unseen. Really made a difference, I think. There’s a lot of untold stories when you really look at it. Local folks really did step up to help one another. You know, this was home and people that live here love here. There’s no question. With all the chaos and the water board issues, you know, potholes, I mean, it really gets to you. I think that’s what brought us back when I retired. I didn’t want to live anywhere else. And having lived in San Francisco, and DC, and Chicago. I lived in some great cities. All had their attributes, but nothing ever came close to winning me over.

Shannon: It is interesting how all the neighborhoods have a totally different vibe. I mean, I think it’s really awesome that you’re doing that study of the individual neighborhoods. And that’s why when we moved back we rented, so we could live in a couple of different areas that we knew of before. The Marigny by far is really the most home in the neighborhood. It’s quiet, but it’s rowdy. It’s busy, but it’s peaceful. It’s historic, but there’s also some new stuff. I love our new Robért’s grocery store.

In front of the Mardi Gras Zone supermarket

Sean: I love all the changes that are happening now. I say that, some of it’s a little…it’s non-traditional. Make you feel like it’s trying to be a little Uptown-flair, which I don’t really like. I kind of like not having our own grocery store. We have to go down to Mardi Gras Zone, which looks like a dump and you go inside, it’s got the food like, you know, it’s like a hole inside because it’s a family-owned place and been there forever.

Shannon: 24/7 they’re open. It’s a building warehouse and it’s on the corner of St. Ferdinand and Royal. Mardi Gras Zone is a grocery store and it just looks horrible until you walk in and you’re like, “oh!” and it’s awesome. It’s huge. Upstairs you can actually buy Mardi Gras beads, and boas, and funky t-shirts. And downstairs is the grocery store.

Sean: It’s always been a little pricey because it’s, you know, locally owned. But they have pretty much everything you need and want.

Shannon: But it keeps the tourists out because they think it’s like a funky place and they’re scared! [laughs] And you go in and we all know. And that’s why I like the Marigny because it doesn’t—it keeps the tourists away, although the Airbnb thing is catching on.

Sean: This area didn’t flood. This is one of the high spots in the city.

Shannon: Natural levees. So, the turn of the river creates a natural levee, and when we’ve been going through the process to get our house assessed for the foundation, if we need any kind of augmentation on the foundation or any of that, structural, everyone talked about our ‘good soil.’ This is the best soil in this city. It’s we’re probably about nine feet above sea level, which is really high. And so, we named our house ‘Bonne Sol’, which means good soil en français. I’ll get a plaque made [laughs] and, you know, stationery. Anyway, but in the city, as a realtor, I was cognizant of this particular area being high ground, of course, also the areas in East Riverside, and Uptown, and West Riverside, you know, close to the river. But absolutely positively: being like two blocks from the river, it makes a huge difference. We have to do absolutely zero work on our foundation.

Sean: We’re very much a part of the neighborhood. Follow that through different apps and different, you know, groups and stuff. We’re mindful of a lot of the changes that are happening. It’s interesting because Marigny is passionate. People are passionate here, well I would say that’s everywhere throughout New Orleans, but I really recognize it more here. They’ll come out, they’ll show up at the church and have a protest, they’ll pop signs all across the neighborhood about keeping the height restrictions in place and all that stuff. So, I think that’s probably what really drew us here more than anything, was sort of that kind of commitment because that’s kind of who we are. I really, I don’t want that to go away.

Sean: And we’re probably a little more concerned about some of the things that have been recently coming about, a lot of the Airbnbs, you know she’s mindful certainly as a real-estate. Airbnb just down the street, Paul Prudhomme’s house, the chef, the famous chef, so he used to live right on the street, right on this corner. He owns like just like a five-house complex and he kind of married the backyards. And so, when he passed this family put it up for sale, and unfortunately, they sold it all. It’s somebody in there—he’s a nice guy, we met him, he’s from Miami, but he’s really kind of chopping it up and it’s like going to have like 30 rooms for Airbnb. He was asking us like, “well do you think it’s going to be a problem?” We were like, “we hate it” because every day we don’t know who our neighbor is. It’s not the same feel, you know? I like knowing the people I live next to.

Shannon: You can’t help but notice [the Airbnbs] because it’s really, I think, more prominent in the Marigny than most others because there are so many smaller houses and doubles. It’s close to ‘the action’ without being in it. So, they’ve made it illegal in the French Quarter which has pushed it to this neighborhood, and the people in the neighborhood are upset for two reasons. I think mainly because the safety. I think, because you’re close to the Quarter people have too much to drink and they stumble home, so they are prey. So, the locals that are looking to, you know, to steal or to take advantage of a scenario like that, they know now where to come. We’re concerned with increased muggings, like pocket theft, maybe someone carrying and then being—

Sean: It seems like there has been an uptick in assaults and robberies on the Royal coming back from Frenchman. Seems to be that.

Outside and inside the Airbnb compound on the block,
five single-family houses joined and converted to a 30-room hotel

Shannon: Yeah. And then people just don’t know. They don’t know that people live here and this is my parking space in front of my house. This is my house. I have groceries, and a big old dog, and it’s heavy, and I need to park in front of my house to unload it. And they don’t realize that some of us have to work in the morning. It’s a Wednesday and I don’t want to listen to your stupid music. I like Frenchmen music and I like my New Orleans music, but I don’t want to listen to whatever you’re playing. It’s like a gaggle of people, so you know, it’s a bridal shower people. So, they’re younger folks that are disrespectful just because they’re just not old enough to understand. So, it just tends to be loud and rowdy and it draws crime because everyone’s going to know that they’re there. So, this block has seen an increase because he’s already started renting [pointing toward the 30 room Airbnb] and then there’s a couple of people that have rented across the street in that unit that’s a 14 unit, like an apartment complex that people own and they rent out. I’ve seen some Airbnb, large groups of people come in and out.  It is a residential building. It used to be—so, this one used to be kind of like a little art block.

Sean: But there seems to be some energy behind maybe it becoming more of an Airbnb setup. Because I think they’ve raised rents up to make a disincentive to stay. I don’t know, it’s just kind of scary because it’s been noticeable, even just since he’s brought in— he’s probably only got maybe half of his rooms available, but when you take five homes that would have been families and yet all the sudden you’ve got 30 rooms. Everybody coming from out of town, I mean, I come home from work, I can’t find a place to park. Sometimes I have to park two blocks away, which is kind of ridiculous. But, you know, I just think it’s the number of people. Transient people. Don’t know they do—I hate to say—it’s not something against them because I also understand they’re bringing a lot of tourist dollars to the area. I like showing off my neighborhood, but we’ve got a real dilemma, I think. She’s made money selling houses to people that Airbnb and people are paying more for those because they are potential income makers, so it’s helped our family too, right? [laughs]. The value of the homes have gone up.

Sean: And then she’s in the business making money too, you know, selling the homes. I think we both recognized that ultimately it’s not a good thing and this is just a prime example. We’re starting to feel that. Groups of people walking down the street at all hours. I don’t feel like they’re causing problems other than sometimes they’re loud, sometimes it’s a little inconvenient, if I get woke up by a group that’s howling hoot and holler and outside on their way up back from the Quarter, but they also are easy prey because they think this is this is ‘Vegas South,’ right? [laughs]

Shannon: And the flipside too is that these people come and the reason why they’re staying at an Airbnb it’s because they want to experience being a local and I get it. I want to be a local when I travel too and see some places that I wouldn’t otherwise see, and I don’t like to stay in four-wall hotels that all look alike. But what I’m seeing is that—so people come and they want to stay in these places and those are the people that may go onto Zillow and find me—because I advertise there as a realtor—and they might want to move, so I’m okay that these are future owners of properties because they want to live here, not necessarily an Airbnb a property, but because they experienced the Marigny; they want to live here because they’re retiring or they just want change, but on the other note they’re coming in and they—

Sean: I’ve seen a lot of properties, improvements get made, things are getting cleaned up, so there’s upsides to all of it.

Shannon: They’re all the same. All of the Airbnb properties they’re making improvements and it all looks like, I mean, I call it ‘the Toledo, Ohio.’ I’ve never been there, but I just imagine that it’s like ‘anywhere USA’ I guess. It looks like New Orleans on the outside, but when you get inside it’s anywhere USA. It could be a condo, it could be it could be a hotel. And I like the Mardi Gras Indians, I like the history, I like the tradition, I like the bricks, I like the potholes, I like being able to see what the house color was before it was painted what it’s painted now, I like the fuzzy windows, I like that I can’t open my windows. I mean I love it. I love all of it. I love all of it. I don’t want it to change and people like that change it. And they make it look like Toledo, Ohio.

Q: The film industry was an interesting thing that apparently the tax credits brought it in and then the end of the tax credits and now that pressure is declining. So, you were saying like deflating balloon? Was that reducing the demand for housing and reducing house prices before the Airbnb thing started?

Shannon: Yes, because it was a long term rental and people would buy a house and know they could rent it out for $3,000 a month, a six bedroom house. Because the film crew needed it or the people associated, they weren’t filming in the house, but they needed to live here for about nine months to do the project. We lived next door to a couple of film crew makeup artists and they were saying the same thing, and they were from Michigan. They would come down and they would live here, they rented long-term.

Sean: And they usually paid good money. They paid top dollar. They actually filmed some stuff in front of our house, they gave us like five hundred bucks.

Shannon: They were professional. The film crews are professional, and well-paid, so.

Sean: I thought of them as good neighbors. They usually were long-term, they weren’t as transient, and they like to associate with in the neighborhood. I knew a lot of them. I don’t know, you know, there’s 18 girls that just came out of there from some wedding party [indicating a nearby Airbnb]. Never met them, but they took up two spots the front of my house for like four hours, unloading and loading. I was like, “alright.” [laughs] It’s not a big deal, but then again—

Shannon: It’s like, then the next batch comes in and they do the same thing. So, it’s not them, it’s the whole idea of…you know.

Sean: But I mean, I know they certainly dropped quite a bit of money the in the Quarter. It probably was good for the economy. That’s good too. We have to have other things other than—when we talk about film industry potentially being a drop-off, well, it’s got to come in from somewhere. It’s a catch-22. There are no easy decisions, right?

Shannon: They’re also planning on building the cruise ship terminal in the Lower 9th, on Poland Ave., taking that federal building and making it the cruise ship terminal. But everything has a yin and yang, everything has an upside and a downside. That would be really exciting because that would really open up those other neighborhoods, offer a lot of jobs.

Sean: This area has got a lot of things. Obviously, a lot of growth potential. There’s some plans for this area. They’ve got a hotel they’re putting in, we just got a flyer in the mail, a Hotel Hilton right on the corner here, on Elysian. That little triangle spot. Right next to the power grid. So, they’re proposing a six story?

Shannon: Four stories.

Sean: We’ve heard that—I know we were talking about this other day—we hear that they’ve raised the height restriction from four stories to six and we’re concerned because we know this field over here, where you parked on the open area—That is owned by folks that own Blue Plate.  We talked to them. They say don’t have any plan to do anything with it. They use it, film uses a lot to build a stage out of it, so I think they make fair enough money on an open lot. But if they get six story height does that prompt a big hotel chain to plop right there? I’m thinking the next things to come are hotels. They’re talking about one on St. Roch, right? Or St. Claude.

Shannon: St. Claude. Yeah. The 3000 block of St. Claude they want to do it’s called “The Sun Yard,” 176 rooms, like a whole block long, and they would keep the facade of the buildings, which again—New Orleans on the outside and Toledo, Ohio on the inside. There’s a lot of upheaval.

Sean: Well, and I think it’s more just people are concerned of what it means, what it does to the neighborhood. I don’t know that we know. There’s some days I say, “well, my god. I will be sitting on a million dollar little 200-year-old house eventually,” if it keeps going the way it’s going. I mean it’s amazing to me, but I don’t know. That’s a tough one.

Shannon: We moved here for a reason. I think that’s the big thing. We moved here, we wanted to walk to music, we wanted the big trees, we wanted the quietness. We love the—and it’s a word well overused— ‘the quintessential New Orleanian, laid-back,’ I mean, they used to call this hippie-ville. It’s like nowhere near hippie-ville anymore. They used to call me, “the hippie.” I told my friends I was moving to the Marigny and they’re like, “oh down there with the old hippies!” and I’m like, “okay…”

Signs of the Creative Class

Sean: We got Dr. Bob’s, lots of artists and musicians, little funky shops, lot of little corner bars, you know, little Quarter restaurants. 

Shannon: The Friendly Bar.

Sean: But a lot of those are a lot of those are having a hard time because the folks that come in with Airbnb don’t know to go there. They don’t look like— it’s not Chi-Chi’s or whatever—you know Pat O’Brien’s, it’s not on Bourbon Street so they walk right by. So, you kick out a lot of local people, you put in a bunch of folks that are just here to go across—they’re just staying here and walking across to The Market. And we know the owner at Friendly’s, which is right around the corner, it’s a cute little bar.

Shannon: Great price on drinks. You can drink all night for twenty bucks!

Sean: Been there for 55, 60 years and they’re talking about having to close up. They’re really struggling because none of the locals want to pay the prices they would need to pay to stay afloat. I mean you still go in there and I can buy everybody here a round of drinks and I’m not going to break more than $40 or maybe even might even get it all under $20! [laughs]. I think it is just lack of business.

Sean: The local clientele, the regulars. I mean like most places need to sustain by regulars and there’s less regular because there’s less people that live here and more people walking right past there. If they do stop they pop in there, get a drink and go. Nobody’s going there to socialize. We’ve been in a couple times with our older son and girlfriend, go over there. We’ve popped in there and half of the time you go in there and there’s little groups. They’re all just making either the way back—from the Quarter or on the way to. No one’s talking. It used to be that everybody at the bar knew everybody. It just seems like it’s gone. Yeah, I’d say less and less of that, and more and more places that—see, they’re trying to cater to the change in the clientele. Right there on the corner across from Mimi’s is Big Daddy’s. That place has got people hanging out all night long, it’s open 24. I don’t know how they’re hanging in there, you know, less and less locals. Old clientele that are still there. Still kind of keeping it afloat. It’s a dive little place.

Big Daddy's, an old bar for the old clientele

Sean: But I mean, they have done some nice things too. I like some of the changes. They opened up the Healing Center, which is on St. Claude, really nice. Love it. It’s got good community atmosphere. They have Spanish classes, and yoga classes, and different religious things.

Sean: The St. Roch Market is open now, more and more restaurants, that we like.

Shannon: The street car implementation there has been fantastic.

Sean: And their plan is to continue it down. That’s the next, supposedly, that they’re doing the analysis on, right? Taking it all the way down to Poland.

Shannon: All the way down to Poland, which ties into the whole thing but the cruise ship terminal. You know, get those tourists in and truck them up to the Quarter and make them buy those t-shirts.

Sean: Which, that’s had a big impact too. So, they bring the streetcar all the way down. Now you can actually walk up here and catch it at Elysian. You couldn’t used to do that. Now people can get here and take a streetcar downtown and we already had a bus service a lot of locals were like, “why do we need—,” you know? We need it because that’s tourists. Tourists like the streetcar.

Gateway to the Bywater at NOCCA and the old railroad tracks

Shannon: Here it is. This is the Mardi Gras Zone. Isn’t it ugly? It’s just so ugly! But we love it. We love Mardi Gras Zone. This is where we get everything that we need!

Sean: It’s open 24 hours a day—

Shannon: Seven days a week.


Shannon: Well and then the other thing on the Airbnb is a lot of people are doing it illegally. And just a few little facts: I think if you have a double and you live in one side you can rent out the other side indefinitely, all year round. There’s no restrictions. But if you have a single property you can only rent out your single house, if you don’t live there up to 90 days a year. Okay? I personally sold a couple of doubles to people from New York, Florida, Connecticut. And they rent it out every damn day. It’s illegal. A couple of them are even brazen enough to put my name on the stupid certificate that’s stuck on the window. So I hope I don’t get in trouble.

Sean: And it raises the price. Rents are higher. This was the working-class neighborhood. This is where people lived that worked downtown!

Shannon: That worked in the Quarter.

Sean: That worked in service industry, that worked in the Quarter in some fashion. And now they’re further and further out.

Shannon: I’m just opposed to—my New Yorkers, I guess I’m really upset by some of my buyers. They never did what they said. They kind of lied to me. They never moved in and rented out the other side.

Sean: I think they [Uptown people] have a tendency to one-up. They want it to look like how they want it to look. I’ve been to a couple of their meetings and they kind of have a sense—they have an idea of what they want Uptown to look like. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m not on board. You go out here, I mean, I woke up, took the dog out, and near the lot where you parked there’s half a dozen, we call them ‘gutter punks’ that are sleeping on the ground and just hanging out. They’re there all the time. There’s floods of them that come in and go. I don’t know where they come from, but they come in and they sleep right on that lot. I’ve woken up to go to work and there’s been 40 people, looks like Jonestown. I’m not even sure they’re all alive, kind of like worried like “what the hell happened?” But you know what? It’s alright. 


Sean: When we first came back I didn’t want to buy right away because I hadn’t lived here. I hadn’t been here since Katrina, so I wasn’t really sure and a lot of things change. I don’t know that I would have considered living here 15 years ago, honestly. This section of St. Roch, it wasn’t the nicest place. I mean that’s where a lot of crime was. It wasn’t really a place that you felt safe. I don’t think I speak out of turn for anybody from New Orleans. It’s amazing to me seeing that sort of thing change, where people feel more comfortable. We walk up to St. Roch. Most of what we do is on this side of town now, where before it was always Uptown and off of St. Charles somewhere, or warehouse district once that went into its revival. Now we’re very comfortable walking at night, walking everywhere we go, going to different restaurants—there’s some great restaurants that have opened up. But you recognize that there’s some displacement too. Those things come at a cost where the price of housing has gone up. You’re starting to see less and less folks that had lived here for many, many generations. But in a way you see a blend. I think there’s an acceptance, for the most part there’s a good acceptance from the folks that see new people coming in that have made it home. But I do see the tension that happens with the folks that come in and it’s not home, it’s just a place to have fun and hang their hat, so to speak, for a week or whatever. So, see just a dialogue between people. This is home for the folks who live here and it has been home for a long time. I want to say, I feel like we have a different rapport with folks because we live here, we show up at the different meetings, we go to different functions, we get engaged with some of the same issues that they’re involved with. I think that makes a difference.

Q: In the core post-Katrina time you would hear, “We hope the city revives and we think that the engine of a revival is going to be arts and tech, and we think a lot of them are moving downtown.” You know, Marigny, Bywater. Also, young professionals. Do you see much of that in the people who are moving in?

Sean: I think so. I think of the clients you’ve had that we’ve actually become friends with.

Shannon: Yeah.

Sean: This young couple around the corner. They’re both young professionals from L.A. They moved here, started doing more and more work here. 

Shannon: She’s a medical consultant.

Sean: And he’s a finance guy. I guess he had a little more freedom to be wherever and they loved it here. I remember Shannon saying that they were looking all around, but they were more drawn to this when she showed them homes because it felt more like what they were looking for. So, yeah, I would agree with that. I definitely would agree with that.

Shannon: But techie people are great, they’re quirky and cool and I think, yeah, I think there’s a lot more—actually, my son’s the girlfriend, maybe it may be my future daughter-in-law, they had been planning to move down here for a year and they just moved down January 30th. We were helping her look for a job and there was kind of an influx of tech companies that were advertising for employees. A couple of my clients are techie, a lot of them are in the medical field, so we’ve also seen an influx because the University Medical Center is just about completed, the VA hospital just about done, over there in Mid-City, which is like kind of our neighbor to the 7th Ward. I think we have a lot of medical professionals in the area. So, I see more medical doctors, medical professionals, moving here then—

Sean: Young.

Shannon: Young. Yeah, 25 to 30.

Sean: That’s another reason that you see the kind of clientele you see here too. A lot of people buy because their kids get into NOCCA. They’re artists, or they’re musicians, or they’re something in the culinary arts. So, they’re looking to buy here.

Shannon: And it’s such a popular and big school. That’s why people were called ‘the local hippie artists’ in the Marigny, because they all were. They went to NOCCA. The community built that school.


Shannon: This is all the different schools of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, NOCCA. On the other side of the block is Emeril Lagasse’s section, the cooking section, the culinary arts. Then you have dancing, theater, media. It’s a huge complex. It keeps growing.


Sean: I definitely see some things that I really feel are good and healthy for the community and other things I’m like…well it concerns me. And I think you’re hearing that from Shannon a little bit with like the out-of-state out-of-area Airbnb-ers. The folks that are doing their side house—she’s sold a few folks, local folks, teachers that that buy because they can afford something in the Bywater area, and they can afford it even better when they can actually rent out or Airbnb one side. You’ve had a few of those.

Shannon: Very successful.

Sean: So that’s a very appealing thing.

Shannon: Even in Central City.

Sean: For a local that can actually afford a house like this that’s still you know a double and they really couldn’t afford it on their own but they can take a credit for the income they can generate from one side.

Shannon: Right. I’m all for that.

Sean: Whether its long-term renter or even Airbnb; so I know I know that you’ve had a couple of sales where that was actually a part of the factor.

Shannon: Yup.

Sean: That they were able to rent it and so they could claim it as income. So, they can offset the fact that they don’t maybe make as much as a starting teacher or a young, you know, a professional teacher. They can actually take the income from this rental. So that’s been a big plus I think because they’re very common. The doubles are very common. A lot of families can, given opportunities, they could live on one side and rent the other. Now you’ve got someone that’s actually looking after the whole property that lives there. Just a different feel. There’s got to be a way to do it where the we get the benefits—the locals and the community—we get the benefits. Now I feel like I’m at the meetings we have all the time [laughs]. But there has got to be a way to do it where the benefits are for the locals in the community and not for people out of town that have no interest but to make money on the situation. I applaud anybody for being an entrepreneur, but there’s more to life than money. You need to have affordable housing for folks, you need to be able to find avenues, and that’s a great avenue for folks that really couldn’t afford a $400,000 house, they could afford maybe a $200,000, or a $150,000 or $30,000. And with the opportunities to offset their mortgage with income from a rental. Fantastic opportunity. That’s what we should be doing.

With their daughter's friend, Emily

Sean: When we came back and we were like, “okay, where do we want to live?” And we had presumed to want to live in Uptown. And as much as I love it up there, and my wife would still probably like to live there, we found ourselves gravitating down here more and more and being more comfortable for different events. 

Shannon: I’m on the fence. I love—and it’s because I love the vibe of Mardi Gras and I love being trapped, we call at ‘the bottom of the U’, where the river sits, we lived literally at the bottom of the U [Uptown]. And I love having to be home by three o’clock because the parades are starting, and I love being able to take the wagon for our beer and wine, up to the corner to watch the Mardi Gras parades. It’s truly a festive reason and not because all the antique shops and all the shopping stores were around the corner. It was that whole, “I live here and I am special,” [laughs] I don’t know. But by the same token, we picked a great spot here because we can walk to our favorite—

Sean: We’ve gotten into St. Anne’s parade. It’s a lot more local vibe here.

Shannon: Yes. Definitely more local. So, we have like the people marching, not Mardi Gras floats, but the first parade was the Krewe du Vieux is down here.

Sean: And St. Anne’s where we all march together; our own community approach to parading. Yeah. I like it here. I really do. I think the feeling in Bywater is much more communal. Like I said, it’s much more community driven. I mean I’m sitting out here, we got friends and the krewe, they’re coming in here to use the bathroom because they start right here. It just feels better. It’s quirkier. Yeah, you’re not getting these spectacular medallion signature throws or whatever, but you know, I still got a—

Shannon: You got a Wonder Woman cork hand-painted keychain.

Sean: There you go. Where are you going to get that? Are you going to get that Uptown? Ain’t nobody taking the time and doing one of those, alright! So that’s why I said—I just think it’s neat everybody dresses up here. Nobody dressed up—go to the parade Uptown, everybody’s just like in polo’s and khakis, you know, the people in the parade [are dressed up]. You come here—if you ain’t got some costume on…

Shannon: That’s Right! You better go home.

Sean: I got a whole thing of dresses and all kinds of crazy stuff now. I love that because you just kind of let out all that BS social crap and you just get to be flying free. I just think it’s really unique. I don’t want to see anything ever change that. I just love that. I love the fact that it’s all hand-painted. You get to be part of the whole scene as opposed to just a spectator. It’s certainly not, you know, there’s no line of ladders and children, I get that. And you might get thrown a couple of—

Shannon: Penises.

Sean: You know, dildos, or multicolored condoms, or whatever, but hey, it’s all part of it. I get a kick out of it. I think it’s almost the what makes this area, the Bywater, the Marigny.

Sean: You’ve got your headdress.

Shannon: Yeah, I got my headdress.

Sean: That was made here. The best part of that? Look at it, looks really cool and fancy. It’s actually an old sun visor turned upside down, and then they glued all that stuff on there. That’s like a unique—see that’s what you get here: a creative person who is now selling these for a hundred dollars. It’s an old sun visor.

Mardi Gras day on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny

Q: How much changes in the personality of the neighborhood going from Marigny to Bywater?

Sean: Not a lot I’d say. It’s probably a little bit more artsy— Well I would say as far as the communities, I think it’s more artsy, a little more…I don’t know the right words, like a little more grungy, I don’t know. Closer this way [Marigny] and get on the other side of Elysian, probably the age goes up, a little more established, been there for a while. Like us and this way [holding hands up] is a little older, probably I’d say, Spain, you could even say Franklin. It’s really kind of a little older, a little more established, been here awhile. And this way [Bywater] is a little newer, a little younger, you got folks coming in, they’re young entrepreneurs or startups, there’s little shops that they’re up for a while [then] they’re down. There’s been some success stories, there’s been some failures. People coming in trying to make their art work, or their idea, startup yoga places. I say younger; I’m just thinking of the kid things that my kids are into. They’re all vegan restaurants, vegan bakeries, or things that cater to that—the things that I think young people are much more prone to be a part of now, which I love.

Q: Those [Bywater] Art Lofts? Do you feel like that’s made of much of an influence on the neighborhood there?

Sean: I think so, yeah.

Shannon: Yeah, I do.

Sean: You’re starting to see more and more younger families with young kids, which you didn’t really used to see here in this area. The Marigny and Bywater, you don’t really see a lot of children running around, and in the Marigny I would say you still probably don’t see a lot of young children. But more and more in the Bywater you’re seeing young families with young children. Which is interesting because I didn’t see that. I know that we have a break in our, you know, we’ve only been here, but I know the area. I’ve been around in the nineties. You didn’t see that kind of dialogue before. If you did live down here it was an adult place. It wasn’t really catered for kids or wasn’t really where you came to raise your children so to speak, right?

Shannon: Right. Notice there’s less schools here than there are in Uptown.

Sean: But, you know, KIPP and some other schools have kind of come on. So, there’s some things that are changing.

Q: That was a funny thing. At least what you hear is before the storm, if you weren’t fifth generation, you just weren’t from here. And that since the storm you can move here and be part of it. Do you feel that?

Sean: I do feel that.

Shannon: I do feel that. We wish that we were fifth generation. Sometimes we actually believe that we are and therefore sometimes we have a white lie and we are. But I think the big picture is since the storm, since we’ve been here and I was in a different position with sales, I’ve heard less about the renovation from the storm and more about being on the other side in development. And it’s been kind of a really cool thing because I was selling advertising for businesses and now I’m selling houses. So, I do see a switch and it’s definitely more forgiving. Like when people move here, if you want to be here, if you want to be “from here,” then you join into the fun and we’ll accept you. I can see when I first moved it was like, “oh you’re not from here?” Or, “You said that street name wrong and therefore we know you’re not really from here.” And there’s a little bit of separation, not so much anymore. Definitely there’s—12 years past Katrina almost and it’s more of a development city than a recuperating from the storm [city].

Shannon: When we first moved here there were no million-dollar houses south of St. Charles Avenue. In that Magazine Street, in that Uptown area, there was absolutely no million-dollar houses for sale. And the Holy Cross is catching on. Marigny, we’re here. Mid-City, with the implementation of the hospital—

Sean: Just think about Holy Cross now. You’re buying—what is that what is the square footage now?

Shannon: It’s $200 to $250 a square foot. That was unheard of. In Holy Cross that was unheard of. Here we’re getting into $300 to $350 a square foot. The Quarter is at $1000 a square foot for some of their condos. It’s insane. A thousand dollars. They used to be the Marigny prices at $300 to $350 a square foot. Uptown you can’t even find a vacant lot, but now the blight houses are $400,000 because it’s the value of the land at this point. Definitely all across the city, no matter what pocket you’re looking at.

Sean: But in some cases, again, I don’t know the statistics, but I’ve talked to folks that were—they are now finding the opportunity to take their blighted house or their family house because the prices have gone up. Now they can actually get the money out of the house to renovate it. So, there’s an upside to it, but then again, I also recognize that most of them if they actually had to pay the taxes on it, they may not be able to at the end of it all.

Shannon: This is my favorite thing about New Orleans, the difference between a balcony and a gallery, and because we have all the things—there’s the Balcony Bar and the Galleria, so the difference— So, what we have here on Mimi’s, that’s a balcony. The balcony is independent of any other structure, so that is a true balcony. It’s on top—if it was a gallery it would have legs that came down from the balcony and met sidewalk. Back in the day people were taxed on the property where the gallery legs set onto the city sidewalks, so the rich people had the galleries, and if you didn’t want to pay the city taxes, if you were less than rich, you would have a balcony. But the more wealthy folks had the gallery and they weren’t [attached] because of the taxation that took place when it hit the city sidewalks. So that’s a difference between a balcony and a gallery. But this is actually a double gallery style, but it’s within their own property lines so they’re not paying city taxes. It would truly in that scenario, if the bars, if the legs came down and hit the city sidewalks. This is just a double gallery style of architecture, but it’s within their own property, so they don’t pay extra taxes.

Q: Isn’t it amazing how architecture connects to tax?

Shannon: I know!

The balcony on Mimi's

A gallery with legs on the street

Galleries with legs on their own property

Shannon: That’s a camelback. So that’s what we’re doing on our house—you build the second story halfway back. The camelbacks, they have to be built as far back so you can’t visually see them from the street.

Shannon: That’s a real Creole Cottage, see the steps, that used to be just mud.

Sean: They wouldn’t have any steps to the sidewalk. You’d always come from the side or the back.

Creole cottages

View toward the French Quarter from the footbridge connecting the Marigny to the River

The Mississippi River from the footbridge, looking toward the Central Business District

Note. These photo portraits cannot represent the whole range of views in a neighborhood. My survey research tries to do that (see my home page). But I think that these photo portraits express views that are widespread in a neighborhood. This is due to the methodology. Qualitative work like these photo pages has more depth, while quantitative work like surveys has more breadth. Both are valuable, and if you want to know more about a neighborhood, you should try to learn about both.

All materials which I created, including animations,
are Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frederick Weil; all rights reserved.

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