Meet the new wave of home and business owners investing in Old Algiers – and be sure to experience all that this vibrant neighborhood has to offer at Shotgun House Tour on Saturday, May 12.
Algiers Point is experiencing a renaissance. Homebuyers are flocking to the neighborhood, multiple businesses have opened within the year, and its appeal continues to grow and spread, ushering in a new era of community building. With more affordable real estate than is found in much of the East Bank, easy access to New Orleans’ downtown and plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities, it is no surprise that people are taking notice of, and a new interest in, New Orleans’ second-oldest neighborhood.
“In recent years, Algiers Point has experienced a great wave of new neighbors, primarily coming from the East Bank or from out of state,” said Mike Verderosa, the current top-producing Realtor for Algiers Point. He pointed to three primary demographics contributing to the uptick in home sales: young professional families looking for a single-family home in a safe area with amenities that appeal to adults and children alike — this is the largest group. Retirees from out of state are the second. “In most cases they have been visiting New Orleans for years and love the culture, music, architecture and food, but are used to a quieter life than some of the downtown neighborhoods offer.” And the third group, one that has been an active force in the community for years, are the “military families, associated with the nearby Marine Corps Force Reserves or US Coast Guard Sector Headquarters, both of which are just a few blocks away at Federal City, or based at the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station,” he said.
With its proximity to downtown, the neighborhood is being rediscovered as one of the best places to live and do business in the Crescent City. “The Point is in need of more amenities, and we now have a base of residents who are able to support these new businesses,” Verderosa said.
“The fact that we are so under-served as a community should make [prospective] business owners take notice. We need almost everything!” said Valerie Robinson, vice president of the Old Algiers Main Street Corporation. Founded in 1996, the Old Algiers Main Street Corporation’s mission includes endeavoring “to rejuvenate a once vibrant business presence within the neighborhoods comprising Old Algiers.” Touring the neighborhood, one can easily see the large amount of what was once commercial building stock.
“There are so many positives, from somewhat lower real estate prices, riverfront access and views, proximity to downtown, ferry service,” Robinson said. Plus, it is “the largest cultural district in the city which extends state historic tax credits for rehabilitating properties, residential and commercial infill opportunities and large tracts of real estate available for development.”
“Aside from that, there is an amazing creative vibe, with musicians, visual artists, cooking schools, graphic designers, handmade arts and crafts [artisans] plying their trade in a welcoming, supportive environment,” she said.
A long list of new, vibrant businesses have opened within the neighborhood during the past year, such as Congregation Coffee, Tavolino Pizza & Lounge, Lil McKH Jewelry, Headcase salon, and others, all of which help to serve a growing demand for a variety of amenities.
Photos by Liz Jurey
Carly Hammond, a native of Mid-City, and her husband Oak Porcelli began their search for a home in Algiers Point, and unexpectedly became business owners as well. After looking at some residential properties, they visited the historic, two-story, mixed-use building at 323 Verret St., which was being used by then-owner and current New Orleans City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer and her husband as an event space and pop-up venue. “As soon as we saw the building, we knew we would operate it,” said Hammond. With past experience in the service industry, Hammond saw it as an opportunity to get back to what they love while also having a vibrant community, populated by many of their friends, in which to raise her daughter. They purchased the building in January 2017 and carried out some minor cosmetic work on the first floor commercial space before opening One Stone Cafe in September of 2017. “We view the business as an extension of our living room,” said Hammond. “We wanted to open that up to the public.”
The couple is currently renovating the second floor of the building into a residential unit that they will occupy, and have also purchased the multi-unit house next door. When discussing the neighborhood, Hammond says she still feels that there is “an unfulfilled need for food options,” and she is planning to extend her café menu and hours to help meet that demand in the future. With so many businesses opening up in the past year, Hammond says, “It’s exciting to be a part of it. Hopefully there will continue to be a good commercial shift for new businesses in the neighborhood.”
Amy Lewis, a regular customer at One Stone and a native of Algiers, found her way back home after living in the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years. She now owns Nola Soul Yoga & Healing Arts Studio at 840 Opelousas Ave. “I wanted to have a business and live in the same place,” said Lewis. After deciding to move back to New Orleans with her young daughter, she began her search for property on the East Bank. Having spent her childhood in Algiers she wanted a change, but as soon as she visited the property, which has an attached living space, she knew it was where she should be. The building began as a corner grocery and for a time functioned as an antique store and a previous yoga studio before being purchased by Lewis in May 2016. She opened for business in May 2017, and now hosts a variety of offerings, including Vinyasa yoga, conscious dance, meditation, reiki and female empowerment workshops. “The sense of community, I feel, is stronger in the Point than any where else in the city,” said Lewis. “You get all of the history, and the architecture that is so quaint, and everyone knows and connects with one another. It’s the best kept secret” of New Orleans, she said.
While looking to expand her successful jewelry business into a brick & mortar establishment, Algiers Point resident Beatrix Bell knew she wanted to remain in the neighborhood. A native of Baton Rouge, Bell and her husband, architect Robert Pell, originally visited the Point and “within two blocks I knew this is where I wanted to live,” she said. “Never have I regretted that decision.” In 2015, Pell was commuting daily by ferry to his job at the New Orleans City Planning Commission when he got word that a lot for sale on the corner of Morgan and Lavergne streets had been rezoned commercial. Having already looked at two historic buildings that would have required major renovation, the couple viewed the lot as an opportunity to take things in a different direction. They listed and sold their nearby home all in a single day, and purchased the lot at 337 Morgan St. in the summer of 2015. Pell, working under his firm of Pell Architecture, led the 18-month process to design and construct the two-story, multi-unit building. The couple now resides on the second floor with their five-year-old son, and Beatrixbell Handcrafted Jewelry & Gifts operates out of the first floor commercial space. In addition to showcasing Bell’s exquisite jewelry, the shop, which opened in May of 2017, is dedicated to the promotion of Louisiana-based artist’s work and features thoughtfully selected handmade products from across the state and nation.
With so many vibrant businesses choosing to set up shop in Algiers Point, and a new generation of homeowners taking their place among the oak-lined streets, the revival of commerce in the neighborhood is sure to continue to evolve.