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Sep
2011
27

Avondale Shipyard Closing Could Depress New Orleans Property Values by 20 Percent



It has been slightly over six years since Hurricane Katrina decimated the city of New Orleans, leaving it in shambles. The slow march back has been further slowed by the recession and the BP oil spill. Now, yet another recovery hold up looms in the form of the Avondale Shipyard’s closing.

According to a new study of local realtors, 90 percent believe that the closing of the Avondale Shipyard will depress property values by a minimum of 20 percent in the communities closest to it. The same study finds that 25 percent of realtors believe that the Avondale closing will eventually depress property values by over 20 percent for the entire New Orleans region. The ongoing study is being done by faculty from the University of New Orleans, Tulane University, Loyola University of New Orleans and Southern University of New Orleans.

For a region slowly getting back to normal, the shipyard’s closing couldn’t come at a worse time. Avondale provides a $2 billion impact and provides 6,500 support jobs to the region. The closing is likely to devastate the neighboring communities for long periods of time. They may soon resemble the river towns of Pennsylvania and other states, old towns that were once charming but now stand in the shadows of abandoned steel mills, run down and crime ridden. After 6PM in these places, the unemployed stumbled home from corner pubs trying to escape the violence that begins at sunset. This too is likely to be the future of New Orleans, a city which has had its share of crime and depression to deal with over the last decade.

Also very likely to be affected are the small businesses in the area where workers now spend their wages after a long day of work. With a majority of workers becoming simultaneously broke, there is likely to be mass closings of small stores followed by a mass exodus of residents fleeing from the crumbling town.

There are currently 3,000 people still working at Avondale building the last ship on the books. Working people, along with community and religious leaders have launched a campaign to save the jobs at Avondale. It is unlikely to stop the shutdown, but could gain positive momentum in finding solutions for the impending problems of the unemployed. The Houston Chronicle reported last week that a startup shipping company was looking into using the Avondale Shipyard. However, complications in negotiating with Huntington Ingalls Industries are likely to put a damper on the plans.

For now the residents of the West Bank can do nothing but pray that a buyer comes along. According to an article from NOLA.com, “more than 120 pastors have told Avondale advocates they will ask their congregations to pray for the shipyard’s future,” said the Reverend Jim VanderWeele, minister of Community Church Unitarian Universalist in New Orleans, who helped organize the local effort.

“The tradition of lifting up in prayer an ailing member of the congregation is a very Southern thing,” said Nick Unger, a coordinator from the AFL-CIO, who is helping with the campaign.

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