In light of an uptick in population, household income and retail spending in the region destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Apple will open a retail store at the Lakeside Shopping Center, its first store so close to New Orleans. The 1.1. million square-foot development is located in the community of Metairie just minutes north of downtown New Orleans, and would host only the second store in the state. Apple’s decision was no doubt influenced by the region’s economic recovery, led by a permanent population that is 85 percent of pre-Katrina figures, and a median household income that is up six percent from before the hurricane hit.
Hurricane Katrina struck in August, 2005 and changed everything. The region’s permanent population dropped dramatically as evacuated residents simply decided to remain where there had been taken, and never returned. Those who did return have had trouble finding jobs, and are still hampered by lack of utilities, transportation and other public services.
But within the past six months, optimism is more abundant. In Jefferson Parish where Lakeside Mall is located, median income is up by about 6 percent from its pre-Katrina level, according to Census Bureau figures, and the percentage of households below the poverty level dropped by three percentage points. In neighboring Orleans Parish, median income is up 14 percent, and the poverty rate has dropped from 14.5 percent to 10.1 percent (see chart).
Sales tax revenues, as an indicator of retail sales, took a dip for December, 2007, parish officials said: Orleans was down 0.8 percent from December, 2006, and Jefferson was down 2.8 percent. The National Retail Federation reported that nationwide, holiday sales rose 3 percent in 2007.
Jefferson Parish usually experiences a two to three percent sales tax bump for December, said Jefferson Parish finance director Gwen Bolotte. She noted that despite the latest December dip, sales tax revenues remain much higher than for pre-Katrina Decembers. For example, December 2004 sales tax revenues in Jefferson Parish were $37 million, compared with $49.7 million in December 2005, after the hurricane.
The unincorporated community of Metairie suffered the effects of Hurricane Katrina, but it was less than catastrophic. The levee broke on the New Orleans side of the 17th Street Canal, saving the community from total flooding and destruction. However, heavy rains and high winds did cause to widespread damage.
The Lakeside Shopping Center weathered the storm, but then suffered from the economic decline that swept the area in the following months. Now, over two years later, developers and financial backers believe the tide has turned.
In September, 2007 Macy’s announced it would built a new store at Lakeside–the first Macy’s to open after Katrina, and in fact the first big-store retailer to open in the region. However, the good news was tempered by Macy’s announcement they would not be re-opening a New Orleans store, which sparked public criticism.
In 2007 Jefferson Parish officials also announced they were negotiating for a comprehensive renovation for the area around the mall known at “Fat City,” known for 50 years as the region’s alternate–and somewhat seedy–night-life district. However, by April, 2008 the Parish still hasn’t signed any agreements with developers. The Parish is also considering a state office building in the area, along with a parish courthouse.
Trivia: The grand opening of this store will mean there are two Apple stores in identically-named malls. The other is in West Thurrock (UK).
The Lakeside Shopping Center is adjacent to the community’s night-life district–Fat City.E-mail this story