The former New Orleans Free School on Camp Street may follow in the footsteps of the LaSalle School on Pitt Street, after a residential developer won it at auction Thursday morning with a single, minimum bid of $1.2 million.
The developer, SM-2 Properties LLC, is currently working on two other historic properties downtown, said Nicole Montagnet Smith, who cast the winning bid for the school. One is the old Nicholas Bauer building at 703 Carondelet, which they hope will open with 29 apartments prior to the Super Bowl, Smith said. The other is the restoration of a building in the 600 block of Julia after it was adorned with a 19th Century facade for the recent filming of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer.Smith said she was surprised that no one else bid, allowing her to win the property at 85 percent of its assessed $1.4 million value. Representatives of CCNO Development, the team renovating the McDonogh 16 building on St. Claude into a home for the elderly, were among a number of potential buyers who toured the Free School last month, for example, but they won a competitive auction for the former Morris F.X. Jeff School on Rendon Street in Mid-City on Thursday and did not bid on the Free School.
Smith praised the building’s location and “beautiful high ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors” and said while they imagine a residential redevelopment, have not yet made specific plans.
“We want to get our architects in and see what’s best for the property,” Smith said.
Smith said she also looks forward to working with the surrounding neighborhood, represented by the Touro-Boulingy Association. Association leader James Smoak attended the auction, and said beforehand that his neighbors are open to some sort of condo project.
Michelle Kimball of the Preservation Resource Center said Thursday afternoon that she is not personally familiar with the SM-2 group, but praised their work on Carondelet and Julia.
“We’re thrilled the property is moving into private hands and is going to be redeveloped,” Kimball said. “We look forward to its redevelopment in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.”
Bricolage Academy, a proposed charter school planning to open next fall, had previously expressed some interest in the Free School building, but no one from Bricolage attended Thursday’s auction.
The Free School’s residential redevelopment would be the second such project involving a prominent Uptown building lately, following the purchase of the LaSalle School on Perrier Street near Audubon Park by developer Jim MacPhaille last year. That project won city approval earlier this year, and construction has begun.