Photo by Dee Allen
The large awning that shades the sidewalk in front of 711 Canal St. will be removed. At its Sept. 21 meeting, the New Orleans City Council voted to appeal the Historic District Landmarks Commission’s (HDLC) decision to deny the removal of the awning on the contributing building in the Canal Street Historic District. The PRC agreed with the HDLC on its decision and the concerning precedent set by the awning’s removal.
An awning existed on the building for most of the 20th century, but the current awning was added 23 years ago and is not original. The building owners expressed concerns that the shaded space beneath it has become a gathering place for unhoused people and alleged illegal activities. However, the removal of architectural features is an ineffective strategy for solving public safety problems or a housing crisis.
New Orleans is hot. Historically, the awnings and galleries overhanging sidewalks have created picturesque streetscapes and shade, both beautiful and practical. A haphazard, block-by-block approach to these citywide issues is not a sustainable solution. Additionally, it is not clear that removing an awning will stop illicit activity. At best, it will relocate it.
MaryNell Nolan-Wheatley is PRC’s Advocacy Coordinator & Public Policy Research Director.