From three historic mansions on St. Charles Avenue to the French Quarter corner that was the center of the proposed Habana Outpost restaurant fiasco, and over to the Holy Cross site that is slated to be the future home to two 60-foot riverfront residences, the Louisiana Landmarks Society named the top nine threats to historic preservation around town. Their annual list, the New Orleans' Nine, is modeled after the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, and is meant to shed some light on at-risk properties and issues. This year, the Louisiana Landmarks Society (LLS from here on out) also tagged on a couple threats that aren't actual properties—the potential loss of federal historic tax credits and issues surrounding the city's master plan.
1.) The potential loss of federal historic tax credits
The Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit gives developers a 20 percent tax credit on expenses for historic renovations on buildings 50 years or older and hey-yo, New Orleans is packed with old structures in need of some TLC. One proposal in Congress calls for totally nixing the tax credit and another wants to snip it in half. The Times-Pic lists a sample of projects that came to life with a helping hand from historic tax credits: The Saenger Theatre (pictured above), the Circle Food Store, the Rice Mill Lofts, the new Whole Foods on Broad Street, and the downtown Rouses Market.
2.) 1500 Gov. Nicholls, Tremé
On the corner of Gov. Nicholls and N. Villere, this 19th-century two-story corner store with a two-story residence in back is an example of the apparent "lack of effective code enforcement." According to public records, the vacant building is owned by St. Marks Community Center and there are $20,000 in city liens against the property with blight and minimum property maintenance violations going back to 2010. The city does have an 11-step lien foreclosure, blight fighting program but the LLS says, "...the city does not follow this process. The city must begin to follow a clear, consistent path toward the goal of resolving blight for historic buildings to prevent their loss."
3.) New Orleans Master Plan
Adopted in 2010, the very official-sounding New Orleans Master Plan is meant to guide the city down the yellow brick road of development, with all zoning, preservation efforts, and land use laws on the same page as the Plan. It looks good on paper, sure, but the LLS says the City Planning Commission is seriously short-staffed and the public needs to be properly educated on how the process works in order for it to be successful.
4.) Historic Holy Cross District
The threat? "Out of scale development" in the form of Perez Architects' plans for two 60-foot riverfront residences in a neighborhood of single-story historic homes.
5.) 7214, 7300, and 7320 St. Charles Ave., Uptown
A zoning revamp put these Loyola University-owned mansions under the Educational Campus District, which means they're not protected by the Historic District Landmarks Commission. LLS says this makes the St. Charles Avenue buildings "extremely vulnerable". Loyola's director of government relations told The Advocate the mansions are "in no way endangered."
6.) 422 Canal St. and 105, 109, and 111 Tchoupitoulas St.
Plans called for the wrecking ball at these four 1840s-built buildings in order to make room for a 21-story hotel on the corner of Canal and Tchoupitioulas Streets. The developers ended up yanking their proposal as they were scheduled to appeal the HDLC's anti-demo decision before City Council. The LLS says "any new development must preserve these historic buildings and appropriately respect them in scale and relationship."
7.) 2517 Jackson Ave., Central City
A 19th century structure that was once home to the Wesley United Methodist Church, a hub during the civil rights movement, makes the endangered list as some community members worry the vacant building will get the demo treatment to make room for a parking lot.
8.) 1008 Jourdan St., Holy Cross
Obviously, blight is an issue at this urban explorer hot spot off of St. Claude Avenue, but wait there's more. Built in 1900 and once home to Semmes Elementary School, the folks with LLS say the numerous blight and minimum property maintenance fines (and there's a lot of 'em—the building has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina) have actually been paid but the owner. The problem is, the building's owners, the non-profit group Ninth Ward Housing Development Corp., isn't fixing the violations, which sort of defeats the purpose of fines being a motivator/threat.
9.) Corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Rampart Street, French Quarter
A restaurateur's plan to turn a blighted gas station into a restaurant called Habana Outpost sparked a shitstorm of neighborhood opposition (with the signs to prove it) and ping-ponged through city meetings for over a year. LLS calls this proposal, which the developer shelved at the end of 2013, an "inappropriate development" on an "invaluable corner".
· 2014 New Orleans' Nine [Louisiana Landmarks Society]
· Landmark society names nine threats to N.O. preservation [Advocate]
· Louisiana Landmarks Society lists New Orleans' most endangered historic sites [NOLA.com]