Diaspora

Remaking Our Streets: Terry Parkway, from all-American suburban spine to global landing spot – NOLA.com

Terrytown CafŽ & Donuts new employee Lan Nguyen waits on customers Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Terry Parkway runs from the West Bank Expressway and ends at Wall and Belle Chasse Hwy, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Duane Vogul, who was born in 1961, one year after the opening of the Terrytown neighborhood, shared this photo of the original Terry Parkway sign that marked the new suburb.
Palestinian shopkeeper Husein Abdelghani greets customers with tiny cups of rich coffee to sip as they peruse the gorgeous assortment of house-roasted nuts, imported pastries, and candy that crowd the shelves and cases at Royal Roastery. Abdelghani said his location in a Terry Parkway strip mall places him in the midst of a Middle Eastern population. The shop symbolizes the cosmopolitan milieu of the West Bank suburb.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Palestinian shopkeeper Husein Abdelghani greets customers with tiny cups of rich coffee to sip as they peruse the gorgeous assortment of house-roasted nuts, imported pastries, and candy that crowd the shelves and cases at Royal Roastery. Abdelghani said his location in a Terry Parkway strip mall places him in the midst of a Middle Eastern population. The shop symbolizes the cosmopolitan milieu of the West Bank suburb.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
The Roaring 20’s bar caters to an older clientele of original suburbanites. Owner Lois Graves allows smoking and serves free food on special occasions in the dark, cozy bar that shares a strip mall with a Vietnamese bakery, a Haitian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant and several other businesses. “All the people in the mall, we love one another,” she said.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Terry Parkway runs from the West Bank Expressway and ends at Wall and Belle Chasse Hwy, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Terry Parkway runs from the West Bank Expressway and ends at Wall and Belle Chasse Hwy, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Ghadir Ayyad was born in Jerusalem, but now sells hijabs, tunics, and other traditional Middle Eastern fashions on Terry Parkway near New Orleans. She said that customers ravel from across the New Orleans region and as far away as Mississippi to shop at the Shawl Boutique.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Karen Dempuolff, originally of Guadalajara, Mexico, waits on customers at Los Panchos Mexican restaurant at the corner of Stumpf Blvd. and Terry Parkway Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Terry Parkway passes by Oakwood Center Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Terrytown CafŽ & Donuts new employee Lan Nguyen waits on customers Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Duane Vogul, who was born in 1961, one year after the opening of the Terrytown neighborhood, shared this photo of the original Terry Parkway sign that marked the new suburb.
Terry Parkway runs from the West Bank Expressway and ends at Wall and Belle Chasse Hwy, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Terry Parkway runs from the West Bank Expressway and ends at Wall and Belle Chasse Hwy, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Terry Parkway passes by Oakwood Center Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Named for a real estate developer’s daughter, Terry Parkway is the trunk that supported spreading branches of classic, Space-age suburbia.
At the foot of Terry Parkway, there were once oak woods. Within one mid-20th century generation, the area went from rabbit hunting territory to a continuous landscape of cozy, cookie-cutter ranch houses and automobile-accessible strip malls.
By 1965, those oak woods had been replaced by the gloriously air-conditioned Oakwood shopping mall.
In some ways, Terry Parkway and its surrounding neighborhoods remain as they’ve now been for years: affordable suburbs “just a skip and jump, really,” as one longtime resident put it, from the Mississippi River bridges to New Orleans and other points north.
But many things have changed. Instead of a predominantly White population of former east bank New Orleanians, Terry Parkway is now an unselfconscious, multicultural Jefferson Parish community of Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern and other immigrant groups sharing the neighborhood with Black and White west bankers.
Terry Parkway runs from the West Bank Expressway and ends at Wall and Belle Chasse Hwy, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
“Everybody’s friendly and looks after one another,” says Ruben Tapia, 73, who was born in Cuba and arrived in the United States as a kid. Since 1998, he’s called a flat-roofed mod house on Terry Parkway home.
He pointed to his “wonderful neighbors,” who live in a nearby condominium building, listing as friends and acquaintances a fourth-generation Honduran American, a person from the Middle East, an African American couple and a person from Brazil.
Palestinian shopkeeper Husein Abdelghani greets customers with tiny cups of rich coffee to sip as they peruse the gorgeous assortment of house-roasted nuts, imported pastries, and candy that crowd the shelves and cases at Royal Roastery. Abdelghani said his location in a Terry Parkway strip mall places him in the midst of a Middle Eastern population. The shop symbolizes the cosmopolitan milieu of the West Bank suburb.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Judy Mills, editor of the Terrytown Trumpet neighborhood newsletter, moved to Terrytown in 1961, just months after the residential development opened. She said she’s watched the demographic changes, pointing to the school bus stop where kids from different backgrounds arrive each morning.
“We’ve become like a United Nations,” Mills said. “That’s a good thing.”
The decades-old Terrytown Café & Donuts, near the corner of Terry Parkway and Carol Sue Avenue is a go-to spot for a fresh, fried ring of dough, a cup of coffee and conversation. In the morning, some of the original generation of Terrytown suburbanites line the swiveling stools.
In the 1950s, the west bank was isolated enough that you might have still heard French spoken here, according to “The West Bank of Greater New Orleans” a book by geographer Richard Campanella. The 1960s suburban spread was made possible by the appearance of the Greater New Orleans Bridge (now the Crescent City Connection) that opened in 1958.
It was the post-war period when many Americans fled urban centers, some for the promise of more spacious housing and others as part of the “White Flight” that occurred during the civil rights era and decimated inner cities.
Lifelong west banker Peter Gondrella, 81, said that back in the early days of the development boom, houses in the area sold for $14,000 to $65,000 at the most. A lot of the buyers came from the Irish Channel, he said, and you had to walk on wooden planks to visit the first model homes because the sidewalks hadn’t been laid yet. The houses were California designs, he said, and some people thought they were too small, but they “sold like hot cakes” anyway.
Mills, 82, was also at the shop. She said the area was marketed as “medium income housing, ready to move in,” to the “post-World War II middle class.”
The Roaring 20’s bar caters to an older clientele of original suburbanites. Owner Lois Graves allows smoking and serves free food on special occasions in the dark, cozy bar that shares a strip mall with a Vietnamese bakery, a Haitian restaurant, a Mexican restaurant and several other businesses. “All the people in the mall, we love one another,” she said.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
“This was what we could afford,” she said.
Those new suburbs were 98% White. “On its tenth anniversary in 1970, Terrytown was home to 13,643 people, of whom 13,397 were White,” Campanella wrote. The neighborhood had “the identity and character of working-to-middle-class former New Orleanians with deep local roots.”
But things change.
The quest for idyllic places to live in greater New Orleans continued. Over the years, some of the White population decamped to the north shore. Meanwhile, immigrants from across the globe transplanted to the welcoming “Best Bank,” as it’s sometimes called.
“The west bank in 1960 and 1970 was 75% White,” Campanella said. But “by the 2000s, it was more than 50% nonwhite.”
Karen Dempuolff, originally of Guadalajara, Mexico, waits on customers at Los Panchos Mexican restaurant at the corner of Stumpf Blvd. and Terry Parkway Monday, Dec. 26, 2022.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
About a half mile north of the doughnut shop, in the 400 block of Terry Parkway, sits a strip mall that illustrates the parkway of today. Kelly Wings is a Haitian restaurant that specializes in spicy chicken wings. On a recent weekday visit, the primary language was Caribbean French and no one spoke English. A few yards away is Los Panchos Mexican restaurant, where 24-year-old Karen Dempuolff, originally of Guadalajara, Mexico, waits tables. She said she’s used to diners of all backgrounds.
It’s always been that way, she said.
Kelly Wings and Los Panchos share the mall with the renowned Hi-Do Vietnamese bakery.
Bakery founder Ha Do escaped the chaotic fall of Vietnam in 1975. Like many others from his home country, he eventually found himself in New Orleans, where Associated Catholic Charities helped foster settlements in New Orleans East, Gretna and Algiers.
In 1989, he established a bakery that’s become an institution.
Ha Do’s son Tevin Do was working the counter during a recent visit, bagging up pillow-soft baguettes for customers. Behind him, the bakery staff chatted in Vietnamese. The language was the one Tevin Do learned first, and he didn’t pick up English until grade school.
“Working in a bakery,” Tevin said, “I see hundreds of people.”
In his 29 years, he said, it’s always been ethnically mixed. Though, he said, he’s maybe noticing a crop of younger immigrants these days. “Maybe the originals are growing older and having kids.”
A smiling, slender dude, probably in his late 30s, arrived to buy bread. In broken English, he explained that he was from the Dominican Republic. He lived just down the road, he said. As he left, a Black woman entered, declaring that she planned to transform a few Hi-Do loaves into “the best bread pudding anywhere.”
“I’m not bragging, that’s a fact,” she said.
The ethnic diversity has transformed the area in other ways. The Ideal Market on Terry Parkway is a destination in the region for shoppers seeking Latin American ingredients.
In an area speckled with Roman Catholic and Protestant churches sit Buddhist temples and, a couple miles from the parkway, one of the city’s most prominent mosques. 
Ghadir Ayyad was born in Jerusalem, but now sells hijabs, tunics, and other traditional Middle Eastern fashions on Terry Parkway near New Orleans. She said that customers ravel from across the New Orleans region and as far away as Mississippi to shop at the Shawl Boutique.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Moreover, some of its businesses have become regional draws. Ghadiry Ayyad of Shawl Boutique in the 1100 block of Terry Parkway said the shop selling hijabs, tunics and other Middle Eastern apparel draws customers from as far away as Mississippi.
Palestinian shopkeeper Husein Abdelghani greets customers with tiny cups of rich coffee to sip as they peruse the gorgeous assortment of house-roasted nuts, imported pastries, and candy that crowd the shelves and cases at Royal Roastery. Abdelghani said his location in a Terry Parkway strip mall places him in the midst of a Middle Eastern population. The shop symbolizes the cosmopolitan milieu of the West Bank suburb.
(Staff Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Next door, Palestinian shopkeeper Husein Abdelghani greets customers with tiny cups of rich coffee as they peruse the assortment of house-roasted nuts, imported pastries, and colorful candy that crowd the shelves and cases at Royal Roastery.
Abdelghani said his location in a Terry Parkway strip mall places him in the midst of a Middle Eastern population.
While a suburban enclave such as Terrytown might not have the same power to draw out-of-towners looking for new residences as say, the Bywater in New Orleans, improvements to the community’s aging housing stock have been discussed.
With the impetus of Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, a pilot program was announced in 2019 to try and update the sprawling collection 1960s-era ranches to attract today’s home buyers.
The Jefferson Parish Housing Finance Authority offered loan assistance, The New Orleans Education League — a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans — helped select the proper sites for renovation and rebuilding, and Tulane University’s School of Architecture drew up plans.
Jerry Bologna, CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, noted while discussing the program that much of the housing stock in the suburb was “of an age that it needs significant investment to modernize, yet it’s not old enough to have the historic or architectural charm that people desire.”
According to the January 2021 edition of the Trumpet, a house was subsequently built on Farmington Place as part of the pilot program. A modest ranch-style home with contemporary amenities, it seemed to blend perfectly into the Terrytown tout ensemble.
Jason Hoffman, the publisher of the Trumpet, said he hasn’t heard anything more about the project since. Maybe COVID derailed it, he said. 
Hoffman has lived in Terrytown for all of his 50 years. He grew up in one of the tract houses, and when his parents died, he bought his childhood home, which he’s currently renovating.
Houses sell briskly, he said, but his isn’t for sale.
“All my stuff is there, and I don’t want to move it,” he said laughing. “The only way to get me out of there is in a box.”
Email Doug MacCash at dmaccash@theadvocate.com. Follow him on Instagram at dougmaccash, on Twitter at Doug MacCash and on Facebook at Douglas James MacCash
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