What can you tell me about the Warehouse District in New Orleans?
Well, it used to look a lot different than it does today. Lots of folks still call it the Warehouse District, but it's been a long time since this area — which is roughly bounded by Poydras Street, Howard Avenue, Magazine Street and South Front Street (now named Convention Center Boulevard) — was a hub of warehouses that stored grain, coffee and produce shipped through the Port of New Orleans.
Over the years, commerce, industry and trade practices changed, and the neighborhood was no longer the commercial corridor it once was. The beginning of a transformation began when the Contemporary Arts Center opened in 1976. The 10,000-square-foot complex has been described as "the Warehouse Arts District's focal point and a home to bold experiments in painting, theatre, music, performance art, dance, photography, video, sculpture and more."
In addition, many of the old, unused warehouses were perfect for creating and displaying artwork, and thus many galleries opened in the area. Today more than 25 galleries call the Warehouse/Arts District home; many of them are located on Julia Street. The corner of Camp and Julia streets was an address akin to Skid Row, but now many sophisticated types call the area the New Orleans Arts District.
The impetus for change in the Warehouse District was the 1984 World's Fair. Long before that, however, plans were afoot to build a center for conventions and trade shows. The original exhibition hall served as the Louisiana Pavilion for the World's Fair. The $93 million building opened in December 1983, and then-Mayor Ernest N. Morial called it "a dream that was too long deferred." In 1992, the convention center was named to honor Morial, who died in December 1989.
The 13-acre site of the World's Fair was right in the middle of the old Warehouse District. Dozens of warehouse buildings were renovated for the fair or by people hoping to make money by feeding, housing or selling goods to World's Fair visitors. When the exposition closed, it left in its wake the new convention center, many renovated buildings and millions of dollars of street improvements. Investors bought large chunks of land in the area while the fair was still open, while others wondered whether the district would wither after the fair.
City officials, developers, planners and real estate agents began a campaign to let people know about the rejuvenated riverfront. Not long after, residential buildings, mostly apartments and condos, began to rise and artists started opening galleries in or near the area. Word spread that the Warehouse District was a great place to operate a business and a safe place to live. Back in 1984, experts predicted that within five years the Warehouse District would be a fashionable and lively neighborhood. They were right.
The latest major development to happen in the old district was the creation of the National World War II Museum, originally named the D-Day Museum, which opened its doors to the public on June 6, 2000 — the 56th anniversary of D-Day.