updated 3/30/2007 12:47:34 AM ET 2007-03-30T04:47:34

The leader of the city's effort to recover from Hurricane Katrina unveiled a $1.1 billion plan Thursday aimed at jump-starting the sluggish revitalization work.

The plan focuses on 17 zones throughout the city, from busy Canal Street to the hard-hit Lower 9th Ward, city recovery director Ed Blakely said.

Mayor Ray Nagin called it part of "Phase One" of the city's recovery from Katrina, which devastated the city 19 months ago.

The money would be used to give developers loans and incentives for building in areas that the city has identified as key to its recovery. Blakely said the target areas are in line with citizen recommendations.

Blakely said he envisions "cranes in the sky" by September, but Nagin cautioned against holding the city to any timelines, saying the city has had difficulty seeing big projects through. The work will require City Council approval.

Money not yet secured
Besides city government approval and zoning changes, the plan must clear financial hurdles. The $1.1 billion, from sources such as federal grants and bonds, isn't fully secured yet.

The proposal is expected to eventually be part of a city-wide redevelopment plan. Billions of federal dollars have been earmarked for recovery from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Blakely foresees shops, new housing and other development built around hubs, such as schools.

Drawings and graphics, taken from previous rebuilding plans, show walking malls and parks in a rebuilt Lower 9th. More than $740 million would go toward citywide projects, such as parks, streets and traffic lights.

"I think it kind of reverses all the myths and questions and doubts and fears" about the 9th Ward's viability, said councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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