Lively commercial, residential market in New Orleans

Restaurants are popping up all over New Orleans.

New Orleans-based real estate agent Eric Wilkinson has never seen his city's commercial and residential market more lively.

"This is by far the most active the market's ever been, in at least the last decade," Wilkinson told MarketPlace. "The most people moving to New Orleans, buying in New Orleans."

Wilkinson said that the hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government has given to aid post-Hurricane Katrina road construction and flood protection systems have provided a spark for the commercial sector, which in turn has brought about a rise to the city's residential market.

The city has become a trendy location – similar to urban centers such as San Francisco and Austin – and is starting to attract people from Los Angeles and New York, according to Wilkinson. The major difference from those markets to New Orleans is that housing and the cost of living is cheaper in Louisiana.

But as more people with money flock to the city, native residents are struggling to keep up with rising prices.

Patricia MacDonald, a resident of the neighborhood Treme for 34 years, told MarketPlace she recently had to find a new place to live when the place she rented went up for sale. More owners are now turning two-flats and combined apartments into single-family homes.

"You trying to run us out of New Orleans," MacDonald said. "Out of here. You know we can't afford $287,000."
The $287,000 MacDonald referred to was the amount a nearby home sold for.

Rise in restaurants
As the city's economy improves, so have the opportunities for commercial businesses. Restaurants are flourishing in the area, taking up a ton of commercial space, according to The New York Times.

"It's really something," Tom Fitzmorris, a local cuisine expert, told The Times. "It has never stopped going up, even in the summer, which is not a good time for us in the restaurant business."
Fitzmorris said despite fewer people living in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the city has 70 percent more restaurants.

"Richer cities have more restaurants per capita," Jed Kolko, the chief economist for real estate website Trulia, told The Times.

Kolko said New Orleans ranked 14th in the nation on restaurants per person in 2010, which was just the start of the food surge. San Francisco took the nation's top billing at that time.

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