The New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission has officially designated 1421 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. as a local landmark. Constructed in 1866, the commercial building in Central City became home to the St. Andrew Grand Lodge, an African American Freemasonry organization. (The building was first nominated for evaluation as a landmark by Electa Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in 2010 and has been subject to design and demolition review since that time.)
At its June 7th meeting, the HDLC commissioners also declined to accept the nomination of another proposed landmark: an 1869 center-hall home at 1129 Lowerline St.
The HDLC denied permission to demolish a historic accessory structure at 1492 Moss St. to make way for an addition to the property’s primary structure, now a convent. It is widely expected the owners will appeal the denial to the New Orleans City Council. While the unanimous vote was consistent with a previous denial for the same building, the architect stated that the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association has dropped its opposition and supports the convent’s plans because the alternative design, which did not require HDLC approval, would entail the removal of a large live oak tree.
Also at the meeting, 15 construction projects — new buildings or alterations previously reviewed by the HDLC Architecture Review Committee — were swiftly approved on the consent agenda. However, the commission discussed at length 10 instances of work done without the proper certificate of appropriateness. In some cases, owners were required to reverse or alter changes. In cases where portions of a building were demolished and the material lost, fines were sometimes issued: $8,000 for excess wall demolition of 729 Ninth St.; $15,000 for the replacement of roof structure at 7200 S. Claiborne Ave. despite two stop work orders; $5,000 for unpermitted facade removal at 1622 Pine St.; $5,000 for excessive wall demolition at 1514 General Ogden St.; and $48,000 for unpermitted facade changes and full window replacement on the apartment building at 838 Lowerline St.
The meeting concluded with a presentation on the recommendations of an HDLC subcommittee on fines. The committee proposed seven criteria and a three-tier system for evaluating illegal demolitions. The HDLC adopted the framework unanimously.
Nathan Lott is PRC’s Policy Research Director and Advocacy Coordinator.