Photographs December 26, 2006
Lake Forest Plaza--New Orleans, La.
AKA Plaza First

While the news media focused on the 9th Ward (a less geographic and economically significant part of New Orleans then they'd have us believe), the rest of Orleans Parish save for Downtown, The French Quarter, and the Garden District suffered near catastrophic damage from the effects of Katrina. In fact, New Orleans-East where Lake Forest Plaza had been was inundated by several feet of storm surge NOT caused by any levee breech, rather the flood water was pushed unimpeded through marsh and Lake Borgne directly from the Gulf of Mexico. Thousands upon thousands of people lost their homes and livelihoods not in the 9th Ward, but in the rest of the metro area which had served to largely drive the city's economic engine.

To be sure, changing demographics had already dealt a near death blow to Lake Forest Plaza, but it was Hurricane Katrina that nailed the coffin closed for the once prosperous shopping mall. Reportedly the site will become a big box development anchored by a Lowe's and other retailers. Here are a couple links for more about Lake Forest Plaza:
Retail Stories


D.H. Holmes-Dillard's
Facing I-10, D. H. Holmes was an original anchor of the Lake Forest Plaza mall. The department store chain was a New Orleans institution dating from the 19th century which had locations in several Louisiana cities (I worked for Holmes in 1982-'83 while in High School in Baton Rouge). The chain was sold to Dillard's after its ruinous financial support of the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans.

Maison Blanche-Dillard's
Originally a New Orleans based chain, Maison Blanche was purchased out of bankruptcy in the early 1980s by Baton Rouge, La. based Goudchaux's department stores. An unrelated New Orleans department store outfit used a variant of the Goudchaux name so the Baton Rouge chain retained and adopted MB into its own nomenclature in an attempt to mitigate local confusion. The Maison Blanche/Gouchaux Co. ran into financial difficulty after it purchased Robinson's stores in Florida. Unable to service its debt, the company was sold to Mercantile Stores which was later sold to Dillard's. Thus the last of Lake Forest's anchors was the Dillard's which had been a Maison Blanche store.
Even in its afterlife, the MB lablescare was still evident on the former Dillard's at Lake Forest.

Gus Mayer-Mervyn's
According to a Wikipedia entry, Gus Meyer once boasted as many as 20 locations, and was a New Orleans based department store chain. Having suffered reverses, its individual stores were all sold off, and by 2006 two continued to use the Gus Meyer name. The location at Lake Forest was apparently demolished after its outlet there closed and the Mervyn's was built in its place.

The Sears store at the Lake Forest Plaza was long abandoned by the time Katrina's flood water rushed through its first floor.


The Grand Cinema
A late addition to Lake Forest, The Grand cinema was built facing I-10, and appeared in the best condition of the surviving buildings at the ruin of the mall (reportedly it will be reopened). The original movie theater facility behind the mall had already been demolished by Katrina's visit.

In addition to the mall itself, nearly all of the nearby businesses had been put completely out-of-business by Hurricane Katrina. In fact a couple of the buildings on the mall's backside had been gutted by the force of the hurricane's storm surge. In contrast, a former Service Merchandise (which had originally been an outlet of the Louisiana based H. J. Wilson Co.) facing I-10 was in good condition and housed a religious organization.

While little had reopened at the mall's interchange with the Interstate by the end of 2006, a brand new modern-style McDonald's had more business than it could handle.