Apr 072011
 

The former site of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts on Perrier Street in September. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

The former NOCCA school building on Perrier Street is scheduled to return to the auction block at the end of the month, with a new sale price set low enough to encourage its purchase by developers and demolition for new Uptown homes.

The Orleans Parish School Board had previously tried to sell the century-old school building several years ago, but failed to draw an offer higher than its appraised value at the time, which was higher than $3 million, said Stan Smith, chief financial officer for the district.

State law regarding public-property auctions has since been changed and the property was reappraised last month, and the minimum bid is now $1.5 million, far closer to the offers that were received during the previous sale attempt, Smith said.

The Perrier Street property, referred to by its pre-NOCCA name of the “LaSalle School,” was built in 1901, but has been vacant since NOCCA left in 2000. It now suffers from “advanced depreciation from age, exposure to the elements, storm damage, vandalism and functional obsolescence,” the appraisal reads.

The property’s purchase will be complicated for any potential developer by the fact that the site is caught in a sort of bureaucratic Catch-22: either reusing it or demolishing it could be extremely difficult. The two-story school building is historic, so any developer wishing to demolish it and build from scratch may face a series of obstacles from the city, the appraisal notes.

It is zoned for single- or two-family houses, however, so any redevelopment or preservation of the existing building into condos or mixed-use projects would face a lengthy rezoning process and also possible objection from neighbors. The appraisal notes that the property has enough land for either 11 single-family homes or 10 two-family houses, based on its zoning.

“The purchase of the subject property for the conversion into the “Old School” luxury by the Park apartments or condominiums is considered to be highly speculative in nature,” the appraisal reads. “Although adaptive use of this building is physically possible, the zoning laws severely limit the potential uses. … After considering current market conditions and possible adaptive uses and restoration/conversion costs, it was concluded that the highest and best use is the demolition of the existing buildings.”

Neighbors in the surrounding Upper Hurstville Neighborhood Association came to essentially the same conclusion last fall when Lusher Charter School was considering the site as a new campus. Based on an estimated $10 million in renovation costs, Lusher rejected the site, and Upper Hurstville assembled a committee to determine the neighborhood’s wishes for the site.

“Nothing happening to the site was not an option with the property in a deplorable state,” and single-family homes with adequate parking were the best choice, they decided, according to an email from association president Karen Duncan. A townhouse-style attached-home development would not be acceptable, however, their report reads.

Property values per square foot in the surrounding Audubon neighborhood suggest the entire 51,000-square-foot lot would likely be worth $2.3 million if vacant, but the extensive demolition and legal costs that will involve bring the reasonable sale price down to $1.5 million, the appraiser’s report concludes.

The NOCCA building is scheduled for showings at 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, and 10 a.m. Monday, April 18. The auction will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 28, at the Orleans Parish School Board office at 3520 General de Gaulle Drive in Algiers.

If the property fails to sell again at the new minimum price, the state now allows the school board to set another auction afterward, with a slightly lower price. School officials are concerned that developers might try to use that process to ride the minimum price downward, but “we hope there’ll be enough competition” for it to sell in the first auction, Smith said.

The old New Orleans Free School caretaker's cottage on Camp Street. (via latterblum.com)

Two other Uptown properties will also be for sale at the auction, caretaker’s cottages for the Free School on Camp Street and the Arthur Ashe School at Annunciation.

The appraisal of the Camp Street cottage notes its “sought-after architectural details” but also its extensive vine damage and the need for gutting and complete renovation, reaching a value of $153,500.

No appraisal or price is available for the Annuniciation Street home on the auction website.

The old Arthur Ashe School caretaker's cottage on Annunciation Street. (via latterblum.com)

Contact Robert Morris at rmorris@NolaMessenger.com, or post your comment below.

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