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Four ways New Orleans is better than before Katrina

The Katrina floodwaters that drowned New Orleans caused many to wonder if the city could ever recover. Five years later, recovery is evident in spades. January's Super Bowl win helped set the tone for what recently elected mayor Mitch Landrieu is calling “the new New Orleans.” Here’s a look at four signs of progress that could be models for cities nationwide:

By , Staff writer

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A new home in the Ninth Ward built by the Make it Right foundation started by Brad Pitt sits just across from the levee that failed when a barge broke through after Katrina.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

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1. Non-profit initiates rejuvenation of the Lower Ninth

The Lower Ninth Ward took the national stage following Katrina as one of New Orleans’ most devastated neighborhoods, with entire blocks of homes gone. Many of its population of mostly black residents never returned. In the years since, the city stalled on what to do next, which not only contributed to the ongoing blight of an entire section of the city, but symbolized the stasis of city affairs.

So far the only progress in the neighborhood has come from the nonprofit sector, notably the Make It Right Foundation. Founded by film actor Brad Pitt, it aims to build affordable but sustainable homes. Thirty-nine are up already. Their innovative design, eco-friendly features, and tidy landscaping heighten the curiosity factor from outsiders who arrive to gawk (and to seek sightings of Mr. Pitt), but to those families whose homes were swept off their lots, it’s a second lease on life.

The foundation aims to built a total of 150 homes. That's a small fraction of the 4,000 that once filled the area, but the program has laid a blueprint that it's hoped will encourage ongoing development – and the return of displaced residents.

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