Central Business District
Elevation: 3 ft (0.9 m)
Coordinates: 29°56′59″N 90°04′14″W
Area: 1.18 sq mi (3.1 km2)
land 1.06 sq mi (3 km2)
water 0.12 sq mi (0 km2), 10.17%
Population: 2,060 (2010)
Area code: 504
Boundaries: Berville Street, Decatur Street, Canal Street, the Mississippi River, the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, Julia Street, Magazine Street, the Pontchartrain Expressway, South Claiborne Avenue, Cleveland Street, South Derbigny Street and North Derbigny Street.
It is the equivalent of what many cities call their “downtown”, although in New Orleans “downtown” or “down town” was historically used to mean all portions of the city downriver from Canal Street in the direction of flow of the Mississippi River. In recent decades, however, use of the catch-all “downtown” adjective to describe neighborhoods downriver from Canal Street has largely ceased, having been replaced in usage by individual neighborhood names (e.g., Bywater).
Originally developed as the largely residential Faubourg Ste. Marie (Eng. “St. Mary Suburb”) in the late 18th century, the modern Central Business District is today a dynamic, mixed-use neighborhood, home to professional offices housed within tall skyscrapers, specialty and neighborhood retail, numerous restaurants and clubs, and thousands of residents inhabiting restored historic commercial and industrial buildings.
New Orleans CBD was one of the few areas of New Orleans that escaped the catastrophic flooding of Hurricane Katrina.
Streets in the Central Business District (originally “Faubourg Ste. Marie”) were initially platted in the late-18th century, representing the first expansion of New Orleans beyond its original French Quarter footprint. Significant investment began in earnest in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, as people from other parts of the United States flocked to the city. Consequently, the district began to be referred to as the American Sector.
While traditionally Canal Street was viewed as the dividing line between the French Quarter and the American Sector, legally both sides of Canal Street are today considered part of the Central Business District for zoning and regulatory purposes.
Through the 19th and into the 20th century, the Central Business District continued developing almost without pause. By the mid-20th century, most professional offices in the region were located downtown, the hub of a well-developed public transit system conveying tens of thousands of workers to and from the area daily. Canal Street had evolved into the primary retail destination for New Orleanians, as well as for residents of the surrounding region. Local department stores Maison Blanche, D.H. Holmes, Godchaux’s, Gus Mayer, Kreeger’s and Krauss anchored numerous well-known specialty retailers, such as Rubenstein Bros., Adler’s, Koslow’s, Rapp’s, and Werlein’s Music. National retailers, like Kress, Woolworth and Walgreens were present alongside local drugstore K&B. Sears operated a large store one block off Canal, on Baronne Street. Theaters and movie palaces also abounded, with the neon marquees of the Saenger, Loews State, Orpheum, Joy and Civic nightly casting multicolored light onto surrounding sidewalks. In the 1950s, six-lane Loyola Avenue was constructed as an extension of Elk Place, cutting a swath through a low-income residential district and initially hosting the city’s new civic center complex. The late-1960s widening of Poydras Street was undertaken to create another six-lane central area circulator for vehicular traffic, as well as to accommodate modern high-rise construction.
The portion of the CBD closer to the Mississippi River and upriver from Poydras Street is known as the Warehouse District, because it was heavily devoted to warehousing and manufacturing before shipping became containerized. The 1984 World’s Fair drew attention to the then semi-derelict district, resulting in steady investment and redevelopment from the mid-1980s onwards. Many of the old 19th century warehouses have been converted into hotels, restaurants, condominiums, and art galleries.
Notable structures in the CBD include the Greek Revival Gallier Hall (the city’s former city hall), the Louisiana Superdome, the New Orleans Arena, the city’s present-day, International style city hall, and One Shell Square, the city’s tallest building and Royal Dutch Shell’s headquarters for Gulf of Mexico Exploration and Production. Other significant attractions include the postmodern Piazza d’Italia, Harrah’s Casino, the World Trade Center New Orleans, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, St. Patrick’s Church, the Hibernia Bank Building and the former New Orleans Cotton Exchange.
The principal public park in the CBD is Lafayette Square, upon which face both Gallier Hall and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Other public spaces include Duncan Plaza, Elk Place, the Piazza d’Italia, Lee Circle, Mississippi River Heritage Park, Spanish Plaza and the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor’s Plaza.
Museums include the National World War II Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center and Confederate Memorial Hall.
The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans is located in the CBD.8 The consulate re-opened in that location in 2008 because of the dramatic increase in the local Mexican immigrant population, many of whom arrived in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to assist in the rebuilding of New Orleans.
In addition to the Mexican consulate, France maintains a consulate in downtown New Orleans, a reflection of the longstanding ties between that nation and Louisiana, and of France’s role as the founder of the city, in 1718.
At one time the Consulate-General of Japan in New Orleans was located in the Entergy Tower. In 2006 Japan announced that it was moving the consulate to Nashville, Tennessee. The Japanese Government relocated the mission to be close to industries and operations owned by Japanese companies.
Honorary consuls for numerous other nations may also be found within the CBD.