The Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, which gives developers a tax credit worth 20 percent of qualifying restoration expenses for historically-appropriate renovations of buildings 50 years or older, is at risk. This poses a threat to the revitalization of historic buildings across the country. The credit has been under fire many times over its 30-plus year existence. There is one proposal in Congress to totally eliminate the tax credit, while another calls for reducing the tax credit by half. The majority of larger historic buildings restored in the past three decades have been restored because the tax credit has made the projects financially feasible. Should there be any reduction or elimination of federal tax credits, the impact upon New Orleans’ growth and economic vitality would be dire.
1500 Gov. Nicholls
Threat: Lack of effective code enforcement
1500 Gov. Nicholls, at the corner of N. Villere in Tremé, is a19th century 2-story corner store with a detached 2-story residence in the rear. This historic building is vacant and blighted, with $20,000 of city liens and blight judgments dating to 2011 and earlier. Still, it remains open to the elements without abatement or attempt to remedy. This dilemma is similar for many structures throughout the city. The January 14, 2013 - City of New Orleans Code Enforcement Update offers an eleven-step lien foreclosure process for blighted buildings, but 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.
New Orleans Master Plan
Threat: Lack of sufficient planning staff and insufficient public understanding of planning process
A 2008 City Charter change required New Orleans to create a Master Plan with the force of law to direct the future development of the City. The new Master Plan was adopted in 2010. Now, by law, all land use regulations, including zoning and capital expenditures, are req
uired to be consistent with the Plan. However, the Master Plan is threatened because the Planning Commission does not have enough staff to successfully operate the planning process, and citizens generally do not understand how the new planning process functions and why it is advantageous to the community. For the Master Plan to function in a responsible manner, public funds must be appropriated to hire additional city planners, and the public must be educated about the value of the Plan to the City.
Historic Holy Cross District
Threat: Out of scale development
A recent proposal to redevelop the former Holy Cross School site that is out of scale and character threatens the National Register Historic District with two 60’ five-story apartment towers imposed in the center of a neighborhood of single-story historic homes. The residents have voiced consistent opposition to the recently approved height of 60’. The proposal, with the drastic zoning change sought, is of much greater density and height than the 40’ previously permitted in the historic district. If built, this development will profoundly and adversely affect the historic neighborhood and set a precedent for others.
7214, 7300, and 7320 St. Charles Avenue
Threat: Special exemption from local landmarking
Greenville Hall, at 7214 St. Charles Ave. is an Italianate double gallery structure built for the Dominican nuns in 1882. 7300 St. Charles Ave. is a unique stone mansion designed for Peter Fabacher in 1907 by Toledano and Woogan. 7320 St. Charles Ave. is a Gothic residence built for Moise Levy, Jr. in1913. In 2012, the state legislature passed a bill sponsored by Representative Walt Leger that carved out a special exemption from local historic landmarking for particular properties along St. Charles Avenue owned or controlled by Loyola University. Any protection that the Historic District Landmarks Commission could have offered was eliminated by the passage of this bill, leaving these buildings on St. Charles Avenue between Broadway and Lowerline extremely vulnerable.
422 Canal Street, and 105, 109, and 111 Tchoupitoulas Street
These buildings near the corner of Canal and Tchoupitoulas were all built circa 1840. These historically significant buildings are at risk due to the proposed development of a 21-story hotel on the site of these structures and on adjoining vacant properties. The Historic District Landmarks Commission denied the demolition of these buildings, and the developer appealed the decision to the City Council. The loss of this particular set of historic buildings would be considerable. Any new development must preserve these historic buildings and appropriately respect them in scale and relationship.
2517 Jackson Avenue
Built in 1873, 2517 Jackson Avenue was the home to Wesley United Methodist Church in the 1950’s, the eighth-oldest African American church in the nation and the second-oldest in New Orleans. Wesley Church was established on South Liberty Street in 1838. This building served as a hub for the civil rights movement, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in Wesley’s upstairs chapel. Now vacant, this solid historic masonry structure is a precious element along Jackson Avenue, representing both the history and community of Central City. Members of the community have indicated their concern that the building will be demolished for a parking lot. Work had begun to restore the building for use as a community center.
Threat: City’s failure to force correction of violations
Semmes Elementary School was built in 1900. It has been privately owned since 1985 and has remained vacant since Katrina. While most of the surrounding historic Holy Cross neighborhood is rebuilt after the storm, this building and its grounds remain a blighted public nuisance. Judgments and fines for blight have been placed upon the building by City Code Enforcement as recently as 2013, yet it appears that each time the fines were paid without the owner addressing the violations. The intent of fines and potential lien foreclosure is to motivate property owners to act responsibly for the health, safety and welfare of the public; therefore, blight fines should not be allowed to be paid without forcing the owner to correct the violations.
Corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Rampart Street
Threat: Inappropriate development
The 85-block French Quarter (Vieux Carré) is our oldest National Register Historic District and still reflects the original city plan from 1721. The uptown river corner at North Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue is its gateway and the edge to its fragile and dwindling residential sector. Currently, this corner consists of several vacant properties poised for development. The latest proposal called for the re-subdivision of three lots, consolidation of open spaces, perpetuation of an illegal billboard, and operation of an out-of-scale restaurant venue. Persistent diligence is required to ensure that any redevelopment of this invaluable corner is sensitive to residents and embodies the unique historic character of the City’s oldest sector.