This story appeared in the June issue of PRC’s Preservation in Print magazine. Interested in getting more preservation stories like this delivered to your door nine times a year? Become a member of the PRC for a subscription!
Lacey Conway – President, Latter & Blum
The residential real estate market in New Orleans is on fire. Do you think this is a pandemic-related trend, or are these prices here to stay?
Despite uncertain economic times, there has been a booming residential housing market. This is due to historically low interest rates and the increase in working from home, all ignited by the pandemic, which has fueled a rapid increase in housing demand. Since the pandemic started, people are treating the home as something far greater than they used to; it’s now a place to work, possibly an additional place to have space for kids, education, to work out and much more. We don’t see this home frenzy slowing down anytime soon.
How does the residential market compare with the metro area’s commercial market? Is the city’s office, hospitality and retail real estate recovering from the economic turmoil of the pandemic?
While the residential market is for the most part firing on all cylinders across the entirety of the metro area, the vitality of the commercial market differs among the various commercial property sectors and commercial corridors. Generally speaking, the commercial sectors in the parts of the metro area that were most dependent upon business travelers and tourists were hit the hardest, and will be the slowest to recover.
The hospitality market, the hardest hit of all commercial property sectors, is beginning to come back to life, but still has a good way to go before full recovery. Weekend bookings are starting to heat up significantly with leisure travelers in the particularly hard hit areas of downtown and the French Quarter. But until convention and business travel starts to ramp up, there will continue to be challenges in the hospitality sector. The rescheduled festivals in October should be a big boost.
Retail trade in the central core of the city was similarly hard hit, and has been much slower to recover than has been the case in the suburban markets.
Coming into the pandemic, New Orleans didn’t have the same glut of office space that some other markets were experiencing, so we haven’t seen a major jolt to the market. But over the next year, we do look for softness in office demand, as office users are still trying to digest the long-term economic impact of COVID, and will be less willing to make long-term commitments for office space without more certainty as to what is in store for their industry. Many companies have also reassessed just how much office space is needed, and some are “right-sizing” into smaller footprints.
How do you sell this city to clients from out of town? What, to you, makes New Orleans so special?
ls, eclectic art and music scene, to its distinctive architecture and neighborhoods, New Orleans is like no other city. People moving to the Crescent City will find a diverse range of employment opportunities in top industries like tourism, energy, healthcare, manufacturing and oil refining. New Orleans’ rich cultural heritage has brought diverse food and music styles into our communities, but it’s also created some of the most unique architectural styles in the country. One can find everything from historical landmarks to Spanish Colonial and Greek Revival public buildings to Victorian bungalows and Creole townhouses.
More than anything else, it’s New Orleanians that make our city so unique. Those born and raised in the Crescent City who contribute to the city’s vibrant culture – from everyday locals, jazz musicians, hospitality workers, street performers, Mardi Gras Indians and streetcar conductors. Each and every New Orleanian is uniquely embedded into our one-of-a-kind welcoming culture. It’s a place where people move to and truly feel like they are right at home.
Latter & Blum has been in business since 1916, and you’ve grown up in real estate, as your father, Bob Merrick, was the longtime head of Latter & Blum. Personally, what is your favorite type of New Orleans architecture?
This is certainly one of the hardest questions to answer. There are so many elements of New Orleans architecture to love! Raised center hall cottages have always been a favorite.
What does historic preservation mean to you?
Honoring the past and enjoying it in the present.