Progress Appears Along Devastated Long Beach Waterfront

"Why is anybody ready to go home?" Tom Baudry asked, while he stood on the flattened beachfront property he owns in Long Beach. "Home is in the heart. And that's where you belong."

So whenever he can, Baudry sits in his truck on his Beach Boulevard property, and reads his newspaper.

"I used to sit on this porch and watch the gulf and the waves and the shrimp boats and the people in the summer playing on the beach," he remembered. "And to me, this is what the good life was about."

Katrina wiped out Baudry's Long Beach home. But he already has plans to rebuild.

"The top of my bottom floor will be 10 feet above ground, 24 feet above sea level," he said.

That's two feet higher than the house that got washed away. Is Baudry nervous about rebuilding? Absolutely not.

"I feel like I belong home. This is my home," he said.

Right behind Baudry's lot is a property that's in the middle of a transformation. The frame went up about a week ago. It's on its original slab, at its pre-Katrina elevation. In an area surrounded by devastation, it's one of the first signs of recovery along the Long Beach waterfront.

Mike Valentine is helping rebuild the home.

"Everybody stops and they have something to say about it. They're all excited," he said.

Despite the city's recommendation to build higher, the Valentine is building at 98 Shelter Rock Drive will be identical to its pre-Katrina predecessor. So it could be washed away by another powerful hurricane.

"That's one of the things you have to live with down here. If you want to have this view, you've got to live with it," said Valentine.

Tom Baudry understands the risks associated with rebuilding. But in a matter of weeks, he'll be doing just that. He looks forward to the day he can read his newspaper again on a porch overlooking the gulf.

"It's nicer looking at land than rubble," he said.

According to Long Beach building officials, 62 new construction projects have received building permits since the hurricane. Only a handful of those permits were issued to property owners south of the railroad tracks.