Meet LaQuanda Smith, Development Project Manager for Perez, APC

 

LaQuanda-Smith-Perez-Architects

“I believe in taking a community, and moving it forward,” said LaQuanda Smith, the Development Project Manager for Perez, APC. “We want to be that catalyst.”

After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in architecture, Smith received her master’s degree in sustainable development from Tulane University, right here in New Orleans. Smith has been working for Perez, APC to better the neighborhood of the Lower 9th Ward, a community that has received little developmental attention since 2005.

“This is one of the first catalyst projects after Hurricane Katrina,” said Smith, leader of the Trés Chic Ladies Society; a non-profit organization focused on the poverty, health and homelessness of women in the New Orleans community.

“Right now, there’s no real investment in the Lower 9th on this size,” Smith said, referring to the Revive Lower 9 project which Perez, APC has been working towards since 2012.

Not only does the plan include multi-family homes, condos, apartments and commercial space, but the design also is geared towards producing a sustainable community.

“We are definitely going to create more than a thousand jobs… and keep it local,” she explained. “We want to make it affordable for the people who have the average day jobs that want to live close to the city,” She said.

By bringing workforce income families and individuals into the community, a spark of economic development, Perez is anticipated to start a flame.

“Hopefully, this project will be a catalyst to bring in more investment,” she said, in reference to the neighborhood’s current dormant condition.

The 9th Ward currently does not have a school, fire department, police force, post office, or retail—not even a single shop to pick up everyday grocery items. What it does have is trash littering the streets, debris, and property still in ruins nearly 9 years after the neighborhood was destroyed.

Although the beauty of the neighborhood is currently hidden by blight, Smith sees a strong community ready to make a comeback through the clutter. “Change is good if it benefits the community, and change is good if the community is willing to be changed in a good way.”

Although the former Holy Cross campus is in poor condition now, Smith says it is important to her that the project honors the community’s iconic structure, the Holy Cross building.

“We are going to do a full, sensitive restoration of the building,” she said.

Because the project’s scale is substantial, Perez, APC wants to keep the community up to date with the construction’s progress. “We are not closing the site off, we are not barricading with any fencing, gates or anything. The community will have the opportunity to walk through the site at any time of the day.

“It is going to open a lot of minds, and allow a lot of people to see the benefits of what we are going to offer. That’s what is important to me, transforming a community so that we are all successful.”