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A New Orleans Real Estate Boom Eight Years After Katrina

Federal money helps le bons temps rouler in New Orleans
Federal aid that helped rebuild the city: $120.5 billion
Federal aid that helped rebuild the city: $120.5 billionPhotograph by Dwight Nadig/Getty Images

Sean Cummings has developed 18 projects in New Orleans, including condominiums, hotels, and luxury lofts with floor-to-ceiling windows at a former rice processing plant. Up next: a residential complex planned for a weed-choked lot currently home to an abandoned school bus. “New Orleans was once unappealing to many investors because it was thought of as a giant bar,” says Cummings, chief executive officer of developer Ekistics, about his native city. Today, “more and more people choose the city for its quality of life. It’s sexy, it’s vibrant, it’s full of life.”

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city and displaced 400,000 residents, New Orleans has become one of the fastest-growing U.S. commercial real estate markets. Luxury housing, retail, and office projects are under way in a construction boom sparked by $120.5 billion in federal aid that helped restore the city’s infrastructure, including shoring up levees and building new roads. Tourism spending is at a record, fueling hotel demand, as visitors flock to the home of the Jazz and Heritage Festival and Mardi Gras. Treme, a television drama about the aftermath of Katrina, was shot on location, and Louisiana is now the third-most-popular filming destination in the U.S., after California and New York, according to the New Orleans Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy.