Parts of Armstrong Park opened to the public on May 9, 2011. Phase I was completed in 2009 under the Nagin administration. Renovations and repairs in Phases II and III, which were completed this week.
City Council President Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson stated, “Since the reopening of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for Performing Arts, we have anxiously awaited this day – when our priceless Armstrong Park, replete with cultural history and in all the splendor of its natural beauty, would reopen under responsible control. Thank you to the Mayor for his leadership in opening the park as he promised, and to Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer for keeping the neighborhood and business organizations involved throughout the process.”
Councilmember at Large Eric Granderson said, “Armstrong Park is a national treasure that, unfortunately, has suffered decades of neglect. I applaud Mayor Landrieu and his staff for prioritizing its redevelopment and returning this cultural gem to the people of New Orleans. Its historical and cultural roots will also be a draw to visitors of the city, especially those interested in our storied musical past.”
District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, whose district includes the park, said, “In New Orleans, we have a unique fondness for jazz music and how it interrelates with our culture and way of life. Armstrong Park, imbedded in the Treme neighborhood and steps from the French Quarter, is a place with historic meaning and cultural relevance to many jazz musicians, artists, historians, and community members. I am happy that the park has now returned to public use, where we can continue to celebrate its rich history and cultivate a new era of jazz musicians."
District A Councilmember Susan Guidry stated, “Restoring this historically significant gathering place to full public use is another milestone in our city’s recovery, where new generations will create memories, adding to the cultural fabric of New Orleans.”
District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, “Armstrong Park signifies and commemorates much of our rich culture. This park is not just a monument to jazz music, it is a symbol of our city's history and I am thrilled to see it restored and reopened for all to enjoy.”
District E Councilmember Jon Johnson said, “This park has been a staple in the history and fabric of New Orleans, as it is the original site for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and honors one of this City’s greatest sons. It is with a profound sense of joy that we celebrate its’ reopening. We proudly look forward to continuing the legacy of Congo Square and Louis Armstrong Park. Even as ‘Satchmo’ stands proudly in the center of this park, the citizens of New Orleans too stand with pride as we mark the return of such a gem to this great city.”
Phase II included completing electrical repairs for bridges not addressed in Phase I, repairing the auto, wooden and island bridges, adding handicap accessible hand rails at some stairs and ramps, repairing exterior vehicle and pedestrian gates, repairing exterior fencing and brick sidewalks, completing repairs of the monumental St. Ann Street arch, reroofing of the Old Fire House, adding ADA curbs, installing three water fountains, cleaning of miscellaneous storm and sewer drain lines and repairing a water line, repairing miscellaneous pavers in Congo Square, repairing park benches, and installing crushed rock mulch in Congo Square. The combined construction and design budget for Phase II was $3,241,261, paid for by FEMA and bond funds.
Phase III included site modifications, foundations and lighting for new sculptures, site modifications, foundation and lighting and relocation of Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong sculptures, installing specialty paving and curbs, installing metal name markers in paving as basis for a walking tour, installing feature and background landscaping, adding irrigation systems, relocating site lighting and add new lighting across the park, installing additional park benches, adding further ADA curbs, installing perimeter fencing around equipment yard, developing a new pedestrian park entry from the Treme Street side, installing “event” power in several park locations, restoring the Congo Square Fountain, and reworking viaduct for the fountain. The combined construction and design budget for Phase III was $4,885,734, paid for by bond funds and insurance proceeds.
Several sculptures in the “Roots of Music” Cultural Sculpture Garden were also unveiled today, including the Congo Square sculpture by Adewale Adenle ($180,000), French Opera House sculpture by Steve Kline ($200,000), Buddy Bolden sculpture by Kimberly Dummons ($180,000), The Brass Band sculpture by Sheleen Jones ($200,000), Mahalia Jackson sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett ($250,000) and Big Chief Tootie Montana sculpture by Sheleen Jones ($200,000). Sculptures were paid for by funds from the Wisner Donation.
Louis Armstrong Park sits on 30 acres in the Treme neighborhood which also includes the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, Congo Square, and the National Jazz Historical Park’s Perseverance Hall. The site also includes the Morris F.X. Jeff, Sr. Municipal Auditorium, where FEMA is currently assessing damage and repairs related to Hurricane Katrina.