Preserving the Recent Past

A proposal to redevelop the former Times Picayune headquarters into a 62,000 square foot golf entertainment venue was presented to the public on Wednesday, March 14. The development by the company DriveShack, which specifies full demolition of the existing structure located at 3800 Howard Avenue, will be seeking city approval for designation as a planned-development district that would allow for higher density and intensity of uses. The majority of the site, with a prominent central location just off of the Pontchartrain Expressway, will be used for an outdoor driving range but will also feature other entertainment spaces.

According to an article in Mid-City Messenger, the building complex was completely vacated by the Times Picayune staff in 2016 and the 8.9 acre site was purchased later that year for $3.5 million dollars.

Built in 1967, the late-modernist complex and iconic clock tower are over 50 years of age and eligible for historic status. However, little discussion of preserving the actual building has been mentioned in the recent flurry of media interest which begs to the question – does the larger community think the adaptive reuse of the existing structure worth a larger discussion or is starting over from scratch the only way forward for this particular site?

Additionally, a large collection of plaster bas relief sculptures by artist Enrique Alferez remain, titled “Symbols of Communication,” adorns the interior of the lobby. Their fate in the proposed redevelopment has raised concern in the local art and preservation communities. The developers committed to working with local appraisers and art conservators to find an appropriate solution to the preservation of these panels.

Preservation of the more recent past is often a debatable topic, complicated by personal tastes and current aesthetic trends. However, from an environmental sustainability standpoint, preservationists argue that the greenest building is the one that is already built, particularly when reuse means keeping building materials out of a landfill. Furthermore, studies have revealed that the current construction sector is responsible for up to 50% of landfill waste.

Let us know what you think about the proposed fate of the Times-Picayune newspaper complex. Should some portions, such as the notable clock tower, deserve more consideration for reuse?

Tlaloc Alferez, daughter of sculptor Enrique Alferez, toured the building in October 2017 along with developers, preservationists and art conservation professionals. The proposed development has raised concern over the fate of the plaster bas relief sculptures in the building’s lobby.

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