Representatives from the solar power industry recently met with the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC) staff to discuss permitting issues as the HDLC considers updates to its Design Guidelines regarding the use of solar panels on historic buildings. Speaking at the HDLC’s Feb. 7 meeting, the staff discussed plans to hold a community forum to hear public comment on the issue before recommending any changes to the guidelines.

Also at the HDLC’s meeting, the commission voted to nominate the St. Joseph Free Baptist Church at 1523 Touro St. for study as a potential landmark. Construction of the church in 1923 was halted by the City of New Orleans and police because of a discriminatory zoning law that banned construction of Black churches in white neighborhoods. A judge determined that the law was unconstitutional, allowing construction to continue. After the HDLC staff conducts a study, they can recommend the building to the commission for designation as a local landmark.

Also, the commission voted to remove a landmark designation from 1031 N. Claiborne Ave. The former Clabon Theater in Tremé, was built in 1913, designated in 2010, and after years of citations, stop work orders, and fines, it was declared in imminent danger of collapse in 2022. The building is now open to the elements, missing its historic façade.  

The application to install two storage containers at Frederick A. Douglass High School at 3815 Burgundy St. in the Bywater Historic District was removed from the consent agenda to allow a full hearing. The containers have been there since 2022 and store school furniture acquired with FEMA funds after Hurricane Ida. Because the land is publicly owned, the HDLC cannot take action, but the commission  recommended that the storage containers be relocated closer to the school.

Many of the remaining applications heard were concentrated in the partial-control Uptown Historic District. The commission denied an application to demolish a raised basement house at 2502 Jefferson Ave. They also denied an application to further raise a raised basement house at 1517 Broadway St. because it would alter the form too significantly. At 7104 Coliseum St., the applicant abandoned plans for a full demolition, instead asking for partial demolition to raise the building; the commission appreciated the shift and granted approval. At 27 Newcomb Blvd. the applicant requested to raise the building to allow higher ceiling heights and replace original windows on the raised basement level. After a discussion, the commissioners approved a three-foot, 10-inch elevation increase (one foot less than requested) but denied the window replacement.   

For the heavily altered commercial building at 2400 Gravier St. in the Mid-City Historic District, the commission approved demolition. The commission also approved the demolition of 1731 Monroe St. in the Carrollton Historic District, which was heavily damaged by a fire. The commission was pleased when the applicant for 1400 Louisa St. in the Bywater Historic District requested to defer their application for demolition to allow time to find a new approach.

The retention applications included windows installed without Certificates of Appropriateness in the Irish Channel and Faubourg Marigny districts and unapproved work at new construction, non-contributing projects in Holy Cross and the Bywater.  The Central Business District HDLC voted on two items, and neither achieved the six votes necessary for approval or denial, resulting in no action. The first project was for the installation of an awning system at the rooftop of the NOPSI Hotel, a landmark building at 317 Baronne St. The second item was for the retention of inappropriate roll-down storm shutters at the penthouse on 333 St. Joseph St. installed without a Certificate of Appropriateness.

MaryNell Nolan-Wheatley is PRC’s Advocacy Coordinator & Public Policy Research Director.