Leonard Riggio, founder and chairman of Barnes & Noble, the mass bookstore chain, headed to New Orleans in 2008 to create Project Home Again, a nonprofit, housing development organization created shortly after Hurricane Katrina to build high-quality, energy-efficient homes for low and moderate-income, New Orleanians.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina and the infamous levee failure damaged or destroyed 80% of the housing stock in one of America’s oldest and most unique cities. Now, the Riggios are headed out again to build 100 new homes in the next 12-18 months, focusing on the city’s most storm torn areas, specifically Gentilly at present, for redevelopment. The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority is investing $1.26 million in the project, which targets working class families Riggio calls “the backbone of the city.”
“We chose Gentilly because it was a working class community,” Riggio said. “I love jazz, good food, I love people who love to party.”
Despite Riggio’s tremendous generosity, his plans were initially met with suspicion from local Councilmember Hedge-Morrell, amongst others.
“She was sizing me up. She told me, ‘we don’t bring cheesy homes here, don’t bring any of that New York stuff here,’” laughed Riggio, recounting his earlier experiences with the District D Representative.
Hedge-Morrell’s initial reticence disappeared once she realized how dedicated Riggio and his wife were to the success of Project Home Again. “My guardian angel sent Mr. Riggio to me,” Hedge-Morrell said. “Do you know that song that starts, ‘did you ever know that you’re my hero?’ Hedge-Morrell asked the audience, in earnest.
For more information on Project Home Again, see their website.
For the NOLA Defender’s article on this project, see http://noladefender.com/content/barnes-noble-founder-leon45ard-riggio-fund-10-more-homes-gentilly
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at www.bryanthomasschmidt.net/blog.