At the Historic District Landmarks Commission meeting on June 5, the application to demolish the former Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school at 2428 Napoleon Ave. prompted nearly 2 hours of public comment and commissioner discussion, before resulting in a 6-3 vote to deny the application.

Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School, built by local architect Philip P. Cazale in 1957, contributes to the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Complex, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is in the local Uptown Historic District. The week before the HDLC meeting, the applicants requested and were granted two conditional uses from the City Planning Commission: to permit a grocery store and the retail sale of packaged alcohol. Reports have been circulating that Trader Joe’s is looking to develop the site. Discourse at the CPC meeting and in a subsequent news article misrepresented the historic status of the building, dismissing it as a “non-historic building” having “no historical significance.” The National Historic Preservation Act defines a historic property as any building included in or eligible for the National Register, so it is by definition a historic building.

At the HDLC meeting, the Preservation Resource Center provided informational comments about the 1957 building to clarify its historic designation while also noting that it does not appear to merit the same distinction as the remarkable collection of modern public schools built in this city in the 1950s, many of which were architectural marvels and nearly all of which, unfortunately, have been demolished. With so many lost, the current request appears to continue a troubling pattern in this city in which modern buildings, and schools in particular, have been quickly labeled as non-historic and unworthy of preservation.

The PRC supported past proposals to adaptively reuse the school building, endeavors that unfortunately did not materialize. For historical and environmental reasons, the PRC continues to encourage its adaptive reuse, though based on information the development team has shared, it appears they have found the rehabilitation of the building unfeasible in terms of construction and financing – at least for the specific requirements of the proposed specialty food store.

In other business, commissioners were concerned about a request to remove decorative trim in order to replace the internal gutter system at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church at 7100 St. Charles Ave. in the St. Charles Ave. Historic District. Ultimately, the commission voted to approve the application with the provision that the applicant work closely with staff to replicate the detailing as accurately as possible. The application to demolish 61 percent of the roof at 5920 Hurst St. in the Carrollton Historic District to accommodate an addition resulted in a no action vote, meaning the applicant will need to appeal to City Council for a decision. The house is one of a row of 5 matching c. 1890 houses, two of which have been altered.

In the Uptown Historic District, the commission issued an $18,000 fine for the full demolition of the facade at 2608-10 Peniston St. in deviation of the building permit. Also, the commission voted to deny the retention of highly visible mini-splits and an inappropriate shingle roof at the individual Landmark at 1510 Robert C. Blakes, Sr. Dr. Since the building is an individual landmark, the HDLC has jurisdiction over any part of the building exposed to the air.