Statement on the New Orleans' World Trade Center Building Proposals
The following statement was presented by Louisiana Landmarks Society's Executive Director Walter Gallas on July 30, 2013 during a meeting of the Review Committee hearing proposals for the New Orleans' World Trade Center building on behalf of the New Orleans Building Corporation.
Louisiana Landmarks Society named New Orleans' World Trade Center building to its 2013 "New Orleans Nine Most Endangered Sites." Our organization opposes any plan that makes demolition of the building a condition of development. Starting with demolition has been the basis of too many plans in New Orleans--and a misguiding basis, at that.
We also believe that it is misleading for some to argue that repurposing and redeveloping the building will close it to the public--and using this line of reasoning to argue for its demolition. The building was a destination before; it can be a destination again--and without needing to confect a new attraction in its place. And the building should be redeveloped by a team that is serious about reusing the building.
We heard the comments of committee members at the July 2 meeting. We appreciate the care with which you are approaching this task of reviewing the three proposals. We understand the importance of this site. We are convinced that planning for the future of the site must include the retention and reuse of the building. While there is certainly room for consideration of ways to improve how the many elements of the area intersect and interact--the ferry terminal, Spanish Plaza, the Riverwalk, the Riverside Hilton, the foot of Canal Street, the streetcars, the casino, the Aquarium and Woldenberg Park--again, demolition of the World Trade Center Building need not and must not be a part of those plans.
Redevelopment of the World Trade Center building can take advantage of rehabilitation tax credits. These tax credits work so well because they reward the appropriate re-use and preservation of older buildings, bring them back to life, revitalize neighborhoods and downtowns and make historic buildings economic generators spinning off jobs and further development. Tax credits aren't borrowed funds let through bonds, which could leave New Orleans taxpayers on the hook for repayment--as appears to be the basis of financing for the proposal contemplating the demolition of the building.
Finally, we wish to make the sustainability argument: The demolition of this building wastes resources instead of protecting and conserving them. No matter how "green" any subsequent construction purports to be, the fact remains that re-using and adapting the current building makes not only economic, but environmental sense.
This the only example of Edward Durell Stone's work in New Orleans. This is an architect whose works include the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and the Standard Oil (now Aon) building in Chicago. For all of the reasons cited earlier and for the sake of retaining our portion of Edward Durell Stone's legacy, Louisiana Landmarks Society urges the committee to recommend support of a proposal which retains and reuses the New Orleans World Trade Center building.