Ed Blakely is about to start rebuilding Sydney, Australia — one shopping mall at a time



Dr. Ed Blakely watchers know that former Mayor Ray Nagin's "recovery czar" declared mission accomplished on the rebuilding of New Orleans in 2009 and took his metaphorical "cranes in the sky" to Australia, where he now works with the University of Sydney's United States Study Centre (bless their hearts).

But now Blakely has a new challenge. He's teaming up with "urban designer" Ethan Kent to revitalize a shopping mall in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta.

That revitalization seems to center on restoring a fountain built in 1986 in the midst of the mall, a rather different task than rebuilding New Orleans. But certainly Blakely is the man for the job; as a report on ABC News Australia stated this morning, he was appointed to fix New Orleans by none other than President George W. Bush:

Professor Blakely was called in by then president George W Bush as "recovery tsar" after Katrina and has now been commissioned by Parramatta City Council to rebuild its central square, Church Street Mall.

He says the task in New Orleans was massive.

"The city fell down. 80 per cent of it was ruined," Professor Blakely said.

"We had to build it from the ground up and that's what we did.

"But I worked on a lot of other cities around the world: San Francisco, some in New York, Moscow, Paris."

If neither the Bush appointment nor the city "falling down" rings a bell with New Orleans, it's probably because neither one happened. And we've gotten a bit more than 30 percent of our population back, a claim made by Blakely in 2011

But rebuilding an outdoor mall seems well within — or at least closer to — the parameters of Blakely's unique Blakelian skill set. And he already has some ideas:

"There's a lot of talent in this community, why not display it here?" Professor Blakely said.

"Have talent contests, kids contests and so on. Flower shows, all that kind of stuff can be done now. We don't have to wait until the end of the process."

The square redevelopment is slated for completion by June next year at a cost of up to $2 million.

"We're not going to plan, we're going to do," Professor Blakely said.

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