The "New Marigny:" harmless, and some might say meaningless, real estate term or more insidious indicator of ruthless gentrification? That's what's been debated on NOLA.com about the St. Roch neighborhood in the latest installment of its excellent ongoing neighborhood series (which previously has pondered if Old Metairie is even a real thing). The neighborhood, whose St. Roch Market was recently renovated into a high-end food court and (tiny, blink-and-you'll-miss-it) produce retailer, has become the locus of tension over gentrification and rising costs in New Orleans.
One of NOLA.com's two stories about St. Roch discusses the term "New Marigny" that's been slapped on the neighborhood in real estate listings. While article notes the term isn't new — it likely originates from "the founding of the neighborhood in the early 1800s by Bernard de Marigny" — and that the Preservation Resource Center uses the name in its official list of New Orleans neighborhoods, the neighborhood's name was officially changed in 1867, and that, most importantly, that's what residents call the neighborhood. Some say the term is being used to attract wealthy buyers to the neighborhood, pricing out current residents. More puzzling is the moniker "Silicon Alley" that's popping up on job listings for a web design company located behind the St. Roch Market, where there's currently just an art gallery, cafe and a punk bar.
And that brings up the next point: the St. Roch Market, which seems to be the center of all the rancor over changes in the area, and vandals made their opinions on the market very clear last month when they spray painted "Yuppies = Bad" on the market. The NOLA.com pieces discuss the market, but a story over at Antigravity goes in hard, positing that the market doesn't serve the needs of the neighborhood, resulting in a huge gulf on St. Claude Avenue between fast-food places and seedy bodegas and the market's third-wave coffee and small plates.
"The Eighth Ward's new fancy food court is about as much of an affordable market as Hank's [the corner store across the street] is a wine bar and bistro. The addition of the business to the St. Claude corridor offers nothing to those whose sustenance depends on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Hot, prepared foods are unavailable for purchase with a SNAP card. More importantly, St. Roch Market doesn't accept food stamps for the small amount of groceries they carry." Some in the comments of the Antigravity piece, and some quoted in one of the NOLA.com pieces, argue that there's a grocery store across the street (a fairly expensive food co-op with a limited selection), and that the market is employing people who live in the neighborhood.
But are we pinning too much responsibility on the St. Roch Market to be everything to everyone? Or is this symbolic of a callous uprooting of the neighborhood's original residents? And is the "New Marigny" name part of a cyclical life of a neighborhood, or something more insidious? That's a lot of questions for one neighborhood to deal with.
·St. Roch: Gentrification ground zero in New Orleans [NOLA.com]
·'New Marigny' newcomers and poor squatters give St. Roch a split personality [NOLA.com]
·Going Hungry at the St. Roch Market [Antigravity]
·All St. Roch Market coverage [Curbed NOLA]