Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (CSED)



“The Lower 9th Ward CSED focuses on coastal rehabilitation, greening the built environment and increasing food security by lifting up and strategically reinforcing community driven goals throughout our work of creating an economically, culturally and environmentally sustainable Lower Ninth Ward.” [1]

History and Background

With support from the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, the CSED was born out of a community driven plan for sustainable restoration after Hurricane Katrina. Right after the storm, several Lower Ninth residents were participating in a Louisiana State Energy Office-sponsored meeting to outline a sustainable recovery for their homes and businesses. This group wanted to create an organization that could continue to implement the recommendations they had set forth. In 2006, Pam Dashiell and Charles Allen formed the CSED to do just that. The original funders for the project included Mercy Corps, Sierra Club, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research (CBR), and the Blue Moon Fund. CSED is still heavily involved with the Sierra Club, particularly its work in the Lower Ninth. [2]


Food Security

The CSED has developed a Food Action Plan to address the important and pressing topic of food security in the Lower Ninth Ward. The Lower Ninth Ward has been distinguished as a food desert due to its lack of a grocery store and access to fresh food. CSED is working with community leaders and residents to increase access to healthy, affordable food. To spearhead this project, CSED has developed the Lower Ninth Ward Food Access Coalition. This group, after a number of meetings in the community, has come up with a Food Action Plan. Written and voted on by residents, the plan includes:

1. The most feasible short term solution is a mobile grocery store

2. The best intermediate solution, due to infrastructure, is a healthy corner store

3. The preferred long term intervention is a school based grocery store

The release of the Food Action Plan has marked Phase 1 of the Food Access Coalition’s planning initiative. They are continuing to work and implement these goals in the community. One of the ways they have raised awareness and excitement for this initiative is through events such as Grocery Store For-A-Day, which began this past October. This event was a fundraiser for the coalition on National Food Day and set up a mobile grocery store to give Lower Ninth residents access to food. They hope to support and implement similar projects in the future. CSED’s food security partners include Our School at Blair Grocery, Sankofa, and Backyard Gardener’s Network. [3]

Natural Environment

CSED is committed to sustaining the natural environment of the Lower Ninth. One of the ways they are doing this is through their initiative “Bringing Back the Bayou”. They are working to improve access, encouraging wetlands research, and monitoring the gradual rebirth of Bayou Bienvenue and other wetland areas around the city. Bayou Bienvenue was once a fishing and recreation area on the edge of the Lower Ninth. This area was destroyed by the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. It is now a saltwater “ghost swamp” sporting few of the cypress trees which used to cover the area. Restoring the bayou is important, not only for natural storm protection, but also as a natural recreation and community place of the Lower Ninth neighborhood. [4] CSED continually advocates for Bayou Bienvenue’s restoration through various state and federal plans for restoration, such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Ecosystem Restoration Plan and the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA). CSED’s natural environment partners include Common Ground Relief and Bayou Rebirth. [5]

Built Environment

CSED engages and promotes a number of programs which are transforming the built environment of the Lower Ninth. CSED’s built environment partners include, Common Ground Relief, Make It Right Foundation, and Preservation Resource Center New Orleans (Rebuilding Together New Orleans).

Community Mapping

Lower Ninth resident, Kevin Mercadel, is working for CSED, in partnership with Beacon of Hope, to gather all of the data essential to spelling out the neighborhood of the Lower Ninth: ownership status, recovery status, building condition, vacant or occupied homes, and more. Compiling this data for community residents helps this community to have a clearer picture of the recovery process. CSED’s Community Mapping project aims to map the neighborhood digitally using an iPhone application (which has never been attempted before in New Orleans) and then to create multiple data sets that will answer a number of property ownership problems. Information gathered will help identify homeowners that are facing barriers to returning and identify those people who don’t plan on returning. With this data in hand the Lower 9th Ward will be better positioned to advocate for itself and for its needs, without having to rely on entities outside of the community to serve as gatekeepers to these crucial pieces of information. [6]

Radiant Barriers

CSED’s radiant barrier program provides Lower Ninth homeowners with an affordable, highly energy efficient solution, designed to save money and increase comfort. CSED offers low-cost attic installations to property owners community wide. Residents also receive a free home energy assessment and HVAC duct system inspection. If needed, ducts will be sealed at no additional charge. The radiant barrier is construction grade aluminum foil that can be stapled to the rafters of an attic. The radiant barrier is rated to reflect 97% of radiant heat, thereby lowering an attic’s temperature by up to 30 degrees. This prevents the house from getting too hot, and makes it easier for an air conditioner to cool the house. CSED has already installed over 150 radiant barriers in the Lower Ninth. [7]

Reducing Blight

CSED supports many anti-blight campaigns year round. In 2011, they participated in the city’s “Fight the Blight” day at Sam Bonart Playground on Forstall Street. They focused on litter abatement, cleaning catch basins, beautification, code citing, painting, and general neighborhood beautification around the park. They also aid in locating abandoned properties that pose a fire hazard, as well as in the cutting, clearing and maintaining of overgrown lots in the Lower 9th Ward. Last year, CSED led street cleanups of the 4800 Block of Dauphine as well as the 400 Block of St. Maurice. Volunteers are a big part of this effort, helping to improve dozens of properties through CSED and its partners. [8]

Volunteer Coordination

CSED is a huge volunteer coordinator. They have facilitated over 3,500 volunteers and volunteer groups on more than 200 neighborhood projects boasting more than 41,000 service hours in the Lower Ninth. Their connections throughout the neighborhood enable them to place volunteer groups with organizations that need their specific skills. Volunteers participate in various projects including, painting, wetland restoration, installing rain gardens, street beautification, and playground restoration. [9]

Community Impact

CSED serves a special and unique role in the Lower Ninth. They serve as a networking and information hub, initiating coalitions with other organizations and promoting other non-profit events in the community. They have become the central organization in the Lower Ninth, coordinating volunteers for many organizations in the neighborhood and maintaining working knowledge of what projects are happening. They serve to promote the neighborhood, its history, and its revitalization to the public and local residents.

CSED promotes organizations around the community on their website and through informational meetings. For example, the community gardens initiated by Backyard Gardener’s Network are showcased on CSED’s website, along with Sankofa Community Development Corporation. This role is important for referring residents to organizations also working in the Lower Ninth they may not know about.

CSED hosts a number of events and partners with other organizations to begin coalitions around the neighborhood. Events such as the Lower Ninth Ward Food Day help to promote food security and involve other leaders in the community. This event serves to raise awareness in the community and promote coordination between organizations. CSED is also a strong supporter and partner in the Connect the 9 Campaign. They sponsored the Connect the 9 festival helping to teach residents about improvements they are hoping to instate on the St. Claude Ave bridge.

CSED also provides a community calendar, which documents events happening in the neighborhood. This includes organizations such as the Common Ground Clinic and monthly events like the Connect the Nine bike ride.

CSED provides a number of promotional materials for the Lower Ninth, such as a walking tour of the 9th ward, Walking Tour Maps, Lower Ninth history, and a Google map with special and historic sites in the neighborhood. In this capacity, they serve a role similar to a tourist bureau for the neighborhood. They also provide educational resource material for residents of the neighborhood. These include the Lower 9th Ward Resource Guide, A Hazardous Waste Disposal Guide, and The Lower 9 Reporting and Information Guide. CSED takes seriously the importance of being a community resource. In addition, they publish a weekly e-newsletter, send informational mailers, and host numerous community meetings.

Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward

CSED is one of many organizations that have worked to restore the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As part of a larger study of the impact and networks of non-profits in 2013 (please see Mapping Non-Profit Influence: The Case of the Lower Ninth Ward for more details), we can see that this organization excels in the following areas:


1. Access to consumers, regardless of ability to pay
The programs and events offered by CSED are located directly in their target area, taking place in the Lower Ninth Ward for Lower Ninth Ward residents. Much of the information, research, referrals and events are free to the public. This includes meetings, festivals (Connect the 9), volunteer coordination and neighborhood clean-ups. Their radiant barrier installation is not free, but minimally priced with free labor and check-ups.

2. Provisions of collective goods
The majority of goods provided by the CSED are collective goods. This is most prevalent in their informational resources such as Lower Ninth Ward tour maps, history and tourist information, The Lower 9th Ward Resource Guide, A Hazardous Waste Disposal Guide, and The Lower 9 Reporting and Information Guide. Each of these informational and educational tools increases the proficiency of residents in this community and publicizes the neighborhood to the public in a positive way.The Bayou Bienvenue project has the same outcome; its renewal will be a natural barrier and recreational spot for everyone.

3. Opportunities to volunteer
The CSED provides ample opportunities to volunteer, not only with their organization, but with all organizations in the neighborhood. Their volunteer coordination network is able to place volunteers on various projects in the area that best suit the volunteers’ skills and interests.

Participation in Information Sharing

1. Research
CSED engages in a number of research initiatives, such as the community mapping project. This provides valuable information for Lower Ninth Ward residents. They also engage in research through the Food Access Coalition, researching to better understand what the community needs in terms of food options and how best to supply these options. They also engage in research through the Bayou Bienvenue. This initiative focuses on restoring this part of the bayou safely and sustainably.

2. Capacity Building
Many of the CSED programs also build capacity for Lower Ninth residents. Educational resources such as waste disposal guides, informational, and resource guides help residents to better help themselves. The monthly meetings they offer for residents serve to give the community a voice. Lastly, the many opportunities for community members to get involved and join coalitions through CSED are enabling the neighborhood to become a leader in its own affairs.

3. Networking
The CSED’s strongest information sharing indicator is networking. They have connections with 15 organizations in this study (NENA, Sierra Club, Historic Green, L9 Center for the Arts, Global Green, lowernine.org, Common Ground Relief, Backyard Gardener’s Network, GroundWork NOLA, CAPSTONE, Our School at Blair Grocery, Bayou Rebirth, Make It Right, Tekrema, and The Lower 9th War Village). They engage in networking as a coordinator and liaison for all organizations in the neighborhood. They facilitate volunteer coordination, form coalitions, and sponsor group events. Any organization thinking about working in the Lower Ninth Ward will have a close and informed relationship with the CSED.

4. Awareness Raising
CSED engages in awareness raising through disseminating educational and informational pamphlets and resources to residents. They also raise awareness by hosting monthly meetings and holding events such as the Connect the 9 bike festival to raise awareness about safety issues on the St. Claude bridge.

5. Social Change
CSED engages in social change through the “Bringing Back the Bayou” campaign and the Food Access Coalition. With “Bringing Back the Bayou” CSED is working to increase environmental sustainability and save the natural resources of the Lower Ninth Ward. Through the Food Access Coalition, they are increasing food security in the community and promoting a healthier and more natural approach to consuming food.

Works Cited

  • Mission & Values. CSED. August 25th 2013. http://www.sustainthenine.org/about/mission-values
  • History. CSED. August 25th 2013. http://www.sustainthenine.org/about/history
  • “Food Access Coalition”. The Trumpet. Volume 2. Issue 7. Page 15.
  • “Bayou Bienvenue”. The Trumpet. Volume 2, Issue 7. Page 5.
  • Natural Environment. CSED. August 25th 2013. http://sustainthenine.org/programs/natural-environment
  • Community Mapping. CSED. August 25th 2013. http://www.sustainthenine.org/programs/built-environment/community-mappingneighborhood-survey
  • Radiant Barriers. CSED. August 25th 2013. http://sustainthenine.org/programs/built-environment/radiant-barriers-weatherization
  • Reduce Blight/Neighborhood Beautification. CSED. August 25th 2013. http://www.sustainthenine.org/content/reducing-blight-neighborhood-beautification
  • Volunteers. CSED. August 25th 2013. http://sustainthenine.org/programs/volunteers

This page was last modified on 26 August 2013, at 12:47


Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development Headquarters

5130 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70117