The first six families have moved into the first six homes built by the Make It Right foundation in the Lower Ninth Ward, the area most devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A year ago, Brad Pitt's program, Make it Right, was just born, with the intention to build 150 energy-efficient homes in the place of those washed away by the hurricane. And at the rate that the eco-friendly houses are popping up, a year from now the Lower Ninth Ward will be one of the nation's largest green communities. 

"You're going to see 100 homes here, mark my words," Pitt said. "It's nice to see a few, but I'm anxious to see 100, 150, 1,000."

The homes are equipped with solar panels to help cut energy costs by up to 75 percent, with other modern details like good ventilation and termite resistance. But despite their innovative technologies, the houses were designed to be reminiscent of the traditional New Orleans homes they're replacing, with high ceilings and roof-covered porches.

"I'm really happy for the families that are going to be here, but I can't help but think about the families that aren't," he said. "It's a push-pull for me. The excitement is that it's being proven, that it's working. The frustration is that we have a long way to go."

Meanwhile, Pitt and his babymomma Angelina Jolie have made the city their home. On the occasion of the premiere of the film that first brought them to town, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Pitt’s been singing New Orleans' praises: "There's something magic to New Orleans that has really made this film work." Button follows the story of a man who ages backwards (much like Mork from Ork), and thematically, it's about people growing apart.

The movie wasn't even supposed to be set in New Orleans, the story was set in Baltimore, but the city's singular character took over. The movie was being filmed in NOLA for the tax breaks, because it was going to be cheap, but now the film Angelina Jolie calls "a love letter to New Orleans" could very well end up boosting the city’s profile.  That couple might well be the best thing that ever happened after the worst thing that ever happened to a very special place. 

Story by Colleen Kane. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008