In a region prone to hurricanes tearing away at the coast, and the powerful Mississippi River ebbing and flowing through the swamp lands, a recent $141 million grant given by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is re-working New Orlean’s approach to flood management.

The focus of this project is the Gentilly Resiliency District, “…a network of new parks, greenways, and infrastructure built in a working class neighborhood next to Lake Pontchartrain, the project seeks to simultaneously safeguard the area from flooding by introducing natural methods of water control, while beautifying the neighborhood and serving as a catalyst for redevelopment,” reports Patrick Sisson of Curbed NOLA.

Traditionally, efforts to control flooding focused on keeping water behind man made structures like floodwalls and levees. The Gentilly project, as proposed by the team at Waggonner & Ball Architects turns those efforts right around by controlling the retained water, and using it to the community’s benefits.

“After decades of efforts supporting the former methods, there’s one challenge that can’t be confronted with grand plans, “…generations of residents who have been told it’s important to get the water out that they should now keep it in…” since the suburban development of this NOLA district in the 1950’s. The familiarity of pump stations and concrete infrastructure has begun to do more harm than good now, and, “the land has sunk eight to nine feet below sea level, creating a landscape that requires more pumping, as well as unsteady soil that warps roadways.”

The plans, uninterrupted, will allow for completion by 2022, but full benefits and functionality several years before by 2019.

For now, it’s full steam ahead with the solutions presented W&B, which include detention pons, medians turned into “blue corridors” and “green corridors with… water permeable sidewalks.” “It’s the shining opportunity to become an ecological model of urbanism for the world. The idea is that the city and nature grow and come back into alignment. It’s a fascinating opportunity to put some things right that we got wrong,” says architect David Waggonner.