Jul 042012
 

A map of the proposed Uptown-University cultural district, marked in red. Previously existing cultural districts are shown in yellow. (map courtesy of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.)

A major section of Uptown from Carrollton to Napoleon Avenue could soon become exempt from sales taxes on sales of original art, and most property owners in the area could become eligible for state tax credits for nearly any kind of renovations they do to their homes under a program on track for approval this summer.

The proposed Uptown-University Cultural District would result in all areas between Carrollton and Napoleon avenues from the river to Interstate-10 being included in a “cultural products district,” a designation through the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism intended spur creative activity in specific locations. The designation has already been approved by the New Orleans City Council and is slated for state certification in mid-August, said Gaye Hamilton, cultural-economy manager for the department, in a presentation to the Audubon Riverside Neighborhood Association during their monthly meeting Tuesday.

The program uses two primary financial incentives to encourage cultural activity. First, any original artwork or jewelry sold in the district is exempt from sales taxes. Second, to encourage the preservation of historic buildings in the district, any structural rehabilitation worth more than $10,000 to a building more than 50 years old is eligible for a state income tax credit of up to 25 percent of its cost.

New Orleans already has 20 cultural districts, and the new district would serve as a puzzle piece of sorts connecting four others: Oak Street, Freret, Broadmoor and Magazine Street. In fact, the Uptown-University District would essentially result in cultural districts along the entire length of the Mississippi River through New Orleans, and Hamilton said the city is a perfect fit for the program.

“There are so many little dense pockets of cultural activity that it’s a natural,” Hamilton said.

Many of the redevelopment projects the city has seen lately have been made financially possible by the tax credits, Hamilton said, and the preponderance of historic architecture in the Uptown area makes it a logical addition to the program.

The supporters promoting the district come from the major educational groups in the area, the Recovery School District, the Orleans Parish School Board and Tulane University. Their buildings — which include 10 major Uptown schools, such as Lusher, Wright, and others — would also be eligible for the tax credits, which those institutions could then sell to others, Hamilton said.

Over the summer, Hamilton is seeking input on the program from the public, and the ARNA board voted to offer conditional support, allowing time to notify association members. Assuming the district finds general support throughout the area, it will be certified in August, Hamilton said.

More information about the Cultural District program can be found at the CRT website.

A closer view of the proposed district.

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  • Drew Ward

    Why if these guys are so worried about being a “puzzle piece” are they leaving out the portion of Carrollton to the Parish line?

    It seems rather odd that all these incentives and programmes encouraging cultural production seem to rather ingeniously exclude over and over these same bits of uptown usually called Pensiontown and Hollygrove.

    Sorry guys, don’t bother starting a business or creating any type of artwork or jewelry. Maybe try theft? I hear it’s a proven money maker in that area and since no one seems to have faith you should get the same treatment as everyone else, it might be the way to go…

  • Polejn

    Why is the residential area with oldest historic houses in the neighborhood cut out from the planned cultural district by artificially shifting the demarcation line from Carrolton to Fern? There are no restaurants or galleries in two blocks demarcated by Fern, St. Charles and Short Streets! Is somebody trying to manipulate the master plan?

  • Polejn

    addendum to my posting: I meant the blocks demarcated by Fern, St. Charles, Short and Leake…

  • Teddy Martin

    Maple Area Residents will be hosting Gaye Hamilton form the Sec. of State’s office from the Dept. of Tourism and Culture at their board meeting at 7:00 PM @ 8601 Leake corner of Leonidas at the Keller Williams to learn the ins and outs of the Uptown-University Cultural District – what the residents will gain and what limitations there are.
    There is seating for 30 so if you can come and want to learn the story…-please do

    and of course the Uptown Messenger is invite if he or she can attend.