The church building that last housed the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church at Prytania and Josephine was built in 1901, but the congregation moved to the First African Baptist Church building on Amelia and LaSalle after Hurricane Katrina. The building then remained vacant until it burned to the ground in January of 2011.
The new owner — shown in property records to be a corporation managed by a George Ellis of New Orleans — plans to build eight three-story homes in the row-house style fronting on Prytania Street, architect Adam Perschall of Perschall Designs told the city’s Architectural Review Committee on Tuesday afternoon. Perschall originally presented the committee with plans that showed each home’s facade varying slightly, but committee member John Klingman said that one facade struck the committee as the most “elegant,” and suggested each house be identical to it. That way, the differences will emerge naturally, similar in concept to the famous “Julia Row” downtown, Klingman said.
“Over time, changes will develop as owners make modifications,” said Klingman, a Tulane architecture professor. “It may take a decade or so, but that’s OK.”
Among the other design elements Perschall discussed with the committee was increasing the first-floor height, as well as the parking — committee members suggested reducing the 18 proposed spaces closer to the 12 required, to allow more green space.
“It’s a tough site,” said architect Wayne Troyer, a committee member who lives in the neighborhood. “It has a lot of emotional associations with it.”
After the meeting, Perschall said the input from the committee was valuable, and said he also understands the neighborhood’s strong interest in the site. The project’s design will not attempt to imitate the church that was there — its stone exterior did not exactly fit the neighborhood, for example, and it nearly fronted on the street, unlike the other homes around it, he said.
“The aesthetic of the church didn’t fit with the neighborhood that grew up around it,” Perschall said. “But this is a sensitive site. We’ve got to be sensitive to history, and we want something that looks like it’s been there.”
A handful of neighbors attended the committee meeting, but they said they were more concerned about the potential damage to their own historic structures during construction than the actual design of the homes. John Gish, owner of the Henry Howard House Inn across Josephine, said he’s worried about the effect of construction on his guests, but he is confident that the final design of the homes will fit the neighborhood.
“Whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be an improvement over a vacant lot,” Gish said.
No land-use changes will be necessary for the project, Perschall said.