The long-beleaguered Plaza Tower at 1001 Howard Ave. moved one step closer to becoming a New Orleans city landmark on Wednesday, March 1. Members of the Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commission (CBD HDLC), which oversees historic districts downtown, formerly nominated the property for study as a landmark. During the study phase, any exterior changes must be approved by the commission, and the property can be cited for demolition by neglect.
Jessie LeBlanc, former chair of the New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission (NO HDLC), which oversees historic districts and landmarks in other areas of the city, spoke in favor of landmark recognition for Plaza Tower. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 chiefly for its engineering merit. It was the city’s first high-rise building, made possible by innovative use of friction piles to create a stable foundation in the absence of bedrock.
Representatives of the current owner, including an attorney and real estate agent, asked that the commission delay any decision, saying it could negatively affect the owners efforts to sell the building. They stated that the property is actively being marketed to institutional investors for redevelopment, likely as a hotel and likely using state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. Commissioners discussed the property at length, noting that HDLC guidelines mirror the standards applied to tax credits. Ultimately, they determined that local landmark status is likely warranted and expressed the desire that it serve as an impetus for redevelopment. As with all HDLC actions, a landmark nomination can be appealed to New Orleans City Council within 10 days.
Nathan Lott is PRC’s Policy Research Director and Advocacy Coordinator.