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Musicians' Village (New Orleans, Louisiana) is a new neighborhood built around a music center where musicians can teach and perform. Musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis teamed up with Habitat for Humanity International and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to create the village for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.
Per February 2007, the Musicians' Village is "the largest-scale, highest-profile, and biggest-budget rebuilding project to have gotten underway in New Orleans post-KatrinaHabitat for Humanity and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, working with Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, announced their plans in December 2005 for a “Musicians’ Village” in the Crescent City.
The initial ideaThe initial idea for the project came from Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis, honorary chairs for Habitat for Humanity's national hurricane rebuilding program. When they returned to their hometown several weeks after the storm and were trying to come up with ways to help. "I had been kind of coming up blank. The problem is so massive, it's hard to know where to begin," Connick said. "As we talked, we both realized we should really stick to what we know, which is music." Sharing the idea with Jim Pate and with the members of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH), made the big idea into a big project, in New Orleans.
The village and the home-replacement project are initiatives that reach beyond the mission of the nonprofit that for the past 22 years has been building only single-family homes for low-income residents on vacant lots, according to The Times-Picayune.
Habitat began building in March 2006. Branford Marsalis said on the March 2 Larry King show, "we started moving dirt on the project two days ago, so we hope to have a significant number of homes up by the end of the year."
Harry Connick, Jr. about the initial idea, video clip at music.msn.com
Two projects known as oneThe Musicians' Village is a project of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. Another Habitat project, in the same area, is the Baptist Crossroads Project. The idea of bringing music back to New Orleans was popular, and by September 2006 the entire area, including the Baptist Crossroads project, was known and referred to as Musicians Village.  The Baptist Crossroads Project was thought up in 2004, by David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans, and initially planned to build 40 houses, a $3 million project, funded in part by a $1.5 million matching grant from Baptist Community Ministries. After Hurricane Katrina hit, they partnered up with Habitat for Humanity New Orleans, and the building began on June 6, 2006. Thirty homes were completed between June and August 2006, and Baptist Crossroads hoped to build 100 houses in the same area over the subsequent two years, according to project coordinator Inman Houston.
Musicians' Village is located in the Upper Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana.
On Friday, January 6, 2006, the governing board for New Orleans public schools approved the sale of 8 acres (32,000 m2) of surplus property in the Upper 9th Ward to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity was the only bidder for the advertised property. The board unanimously approved the $676,500 sale.
The core property was a residential area for decades and the former site of Kohn Junior High School, which was razed. The land covers two city blocks bounded by North Roman, Alvar and North Johnson streets. It also includes parts of three other blocks along what once was Bartholomew Street—the stretch between North Johnson and North Derbigny streets.
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity's Executive Director, Jim Pate, says the particular neighborhood had some flooding, but not severe flooding. "It's safely within a fairly secure levee system that's going to be rebuilt very nearby. And it's a neighborhood that has all the services in — power, water, sewer."
Who can live in Musicians' Village?Habitat is an equal opportunity housing organization, and non-musicians will also live in the village. Musicians are given no priority for housing over any other applicant. However, musicians who lived in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina and are in need of safe, affordable housing are encouraged to apply for the program.
The selection process is based on three basic criteria: Need for Shelter, Ability to Pay, and Willingness to Partner. This is true for all Habitat communities, not just Musicians' Village.
Jim Pate reminds potential applicants that Habitat is not a giveaway program. Each homeowner is responsible for paying an interest-free mortgage, normally for 20 years. Volunteer support and donations allow the housing to be sold at an affordable price. The average mortgage payment is about $550 a month. Homeowner families also contribute 350 hours of "sweat equity" in the form of labor on the construction of their homes and other Habitat homes.
Musicians interested in living in the village should call Habitat's homeowner hotline, according to Jim Pate.
Musicians are often paid in cash and haven't always filed tax returns, and Habitat is working with musicians to find new and innovative approaches for income verification. Habitat for Humanity’s Family Services Coordinator, Sarrah Evans, explains that for one applicant, she photocopied a spiral-bound notebook of upcoming gigs to verify upcoming income. Musicians who have received a denial letter are urged by Evans to call Habitat's offices, where the Family Services staff will explain, step-by-step, how to address any application or credit issues. Gambit Weekly, in January 2007, wrote that Connick and Marsalis had hired Jackie Harris, (former director of the New Orleans Music and Entertainment Commission), to work with applicants who had failed to qualify, and try to help them improve their credit scores and reapply. The article also wrote the phone number musicians can contact Harris at.
As of January 2007, 30 musicians have been officially accepted as Habitat partner families, with an additional 120 working their way through the process. When construction is completed, the majority of those whose houses will make up the core will be musicians.
Applicants are ineligible if they have open collection accounts on their credit report, federal judgments or tax liens, etc. Applicants are also ineligible if they have bankruptcies within the past two years. If Applicants have declared bankruptcy, it must have been discharged at least two years ago. The nature of home-ownership makes these restrictions necessary, as property could be seized for payment of past debts.
Musicians' Village, signs from volunteer groups."We are thrilled at this opportunity to play a central part in the rebuilding of New Orleans," said Andy Lee, a vice president of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity's governing board. "As soon as we acquire title to this property, we will move forward with plans to bring in thousands of volunteers from across the country to work alongside our homeowners."
Jim Pate, executive director of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, "We'd hope some of our musician partner families could do some of their sweat equity by doing performances or concerts for some of our volunteers."
Many thousand volunteers have and are taking part in the project. Nearly every day of the week, hundreds of volunteers from around the country, and from all over the world, can be found carrying wood, hammering and sawing. Many groups have also volunteered at the Village, including the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band in January 2007.
President George W. Bush is greeted by the New Birth Brass Band on August 29, 2006, at the Habitat for Humanity's Musician's Village.Politicians George W. Bush, Kathleen Blanco, Ray Nagin and Bill Jefferson volunteered at the Musicians' Village on April 27, 2006. Put on tool belts and hoisted triangular roof beam sections up to workers scampering across the wooden skeletons of new houses. Then they went inside the framework, talked with individual volunteers, before Nagin and Bush climbed up and started hammering nails handed up to them by Blanco and Jefferson. Hootie & The Blowfish brought their entire band and crew down to New Orleans for 5 days of building houses, on October 16–20, 2006. Former president Jimmy Carter worked in December 2006. Barack Obama took part in painting a home, held discussions, received a tour of the area and was entertained with music by J.D. Hill. His Holiness Karekin II, Leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, helped build a home on October 17, 2007, and senator John Edwards helped out on January 30, 2008. Edwards also held a ten-minute speech where he announced his withdrawal from the 2008 United States presidential race.
March 17th, 2013
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