NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- New Orleans has failed to return to its pre-Hurricane Katrina population level, and the rate of people returning to the city has slowed, officials say.
Although some neighborhoods have recovered strongly from the 2005 hurricane, in some parts of the city the population remains down by 50 percent or more, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Sunday.
The newspaper reported that lost population usually translates into blight. ESRI, a leading market research firm, projects New Orleans will gain only 15,000 residents in the next five years.
New Orleans has barely half the peak population of 627,525 measured in the 1960 census, the newspaper said.
"Before the storm, we were not realistic about the fact that the city was already shrinking, and had been for a long time," said architect Steven Bingler, who helped crafting both the post-Katrina Unified New Orleans Plan and the recently adopted school-rebuilding plan.
"So many people seem concerned that the city isn't as big as it used to be, but there are all these advantages to being able to finally get real," he added.