On March 10 three Milwaukee designers will join hundreds of young professionals and students from across the country in an effort to help restore, rebuild and revive New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.
Jean Chandler, Ariel Steuer and Rob Krejci are volunteers with Historic Green, an organization working to bring sustainable preservation to the area destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The national group is converging for 10 days with the goal of transforming the once devastated landscape into the nation's first carbon-neutral community.
Made up of architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects, interior designers and contractors, Historic Green focuses on "a blending of the past, the present and the future." What was meets what could be: a healthier, safer, more livable community.
In New Orleans, Chandler and her collegues are representing Matter, a group she recently launched for Milwaukee-based designers to meet and discuss creative ideas and collaboration possibilities.
"I knew we needed to go," she says. "We needed to let this be the first thing Matter did. We needed to step on the scene and do something big in the Big Easy."
Chandler's employers, Ralph and Mary Lou La Macchia of La Macchia Group, offered to sponsor the trip.
Each volunteer was asked to list his or her professional skills and will be placed accordingly. Chandler still doesn't know exactly what she'll be doing, but as an interior designer there's a chance she could help rebuild homes for the nearly 6,000 displaced residents. Steuer is also an interior designer in the Milwaukee area and Krejci is an architectural woodworker.
Other volunteers will work to restore parks, playgrounds, churches and community centers in the Lower Ninth Ward and Holy Cross districts. They will emphasize sustainable practices -- utilizing reclaiming wood and building materials -- as well as historic preservation. LEED certified structures will enhance energy efficiency and quality of life and creating more rain gardens and green spaces will help protect the natural wetlands, which help ease the damage from natural disasters.
"Today, most homeowners have been unable to completely rehab their flood-damaged houses, which remain in a state of disrepair," said Pam Dashiell, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development in New Orleans.
"And yet, an amazing rebirth is underway, led by the Holy Cross residents themselves. In March, this community will take steps to become a national model of sustainability."
Milwaukee's Matter wants to bring more than just its skills to New Orleans. The group is hosting an open-to-the-public collaborative this Friday, March 6 at Fuzion Café & Lounge, 524 S. 2nd St. and has a goal of raising $1,000 to donate to Historic Green.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”