Apr 172017

Plans for the new Columbia Parc Elementary school in the St. Bernard Neighborhood (via Waggonner & Ball Architects).

By Claire Byun

A planned St. Bernard neighborhood school gained city approval last week, effectively closing the “cradle to college” education loop in the Columbia Parc development.

The New Orleans City Planning Commissions approved an institutional master plan for Columbia Parc Elementary last week, part of the larger Columbia Parc development on the former St. Bernard housing project land. Columbia Parc includes 685 apartments and townhomes available to all income-levels, including a senior living facility and a nationally-recognized early learning facility called Educare.

Educare, which services children up to age five, uses research-based, high-quality practices to help children develop the academic and social-emotional skills essential for success in school and life. The district’s facility is the only Educare in the four states surrounding Louisiana.

The planned $26 million Columbia Parc Elementary is the middle component in the “cradle to college” education structure, according to J.T. Hannan, director of public affairs for the Bayou District Foundation.

“It’s kind of the final piece of the puzzle,” he told the commission.

The new three-story campus will include 54 classrooms, a cafeteria and rooms for storage. A breezeway will connect the main building to a one-story gymnasium, and developers are planning an outdoor play area between the gym and St. Bernard Avenue.

Kenner Carmody, with Waggoner & Ball Architects, said the new schools will hold 800 students. Now, with an elementary school, students can easily shuffle between the pre-school curriculum of Educare into Columbia Parc Elementary and finally across the street into McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School.

“We think it’ll be a great addition, not only to Columbia Parc but to the whole neighborhood,” Hannan said.

Columbia Parc was redeveloped and now managed by the Bayou District Foundation, which will also oversee the new Bayou Oaks Golf course in City Park. The district includes families from three income levels – low income, public income and market rate – which diversifies the housing complex.

The former St. Bernard housing complex was known for many years as a violent, drug-riddled area at the intersection of Gentilly, Lakeview and Mid-City. In the four years prior to Katrina, 44 homicides were reported, Hannan said. Much of the complex was flooded during the storm, leaving 134 dilapidated buildings in its wake.

There were no public questions or opposition to the planned school at the meeting, but Kelly Brown, CPC member, wished developers luck on their new venture.

“Having been to this development, it’s beautiful,” Brown said. “I wish you the best.”

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