The former Carrollton Courthouse — built in 1855 by one of the city’s premier architects, used as a school on-and-off since 1889, and a top priority for preservation by local historians — is set for public auction in March, with an open house for potential buyers next week.
The last school to use the building, Audubon Charter, departed in 2013 because of the building’s long deterioration, and what would become of the landmark has been a looming question ever since. State law requires that any surplus school building be offered to charter operators before any other option is explored, and officials from several schools toured the old courthouse in the summer of 2014, but none made an offer on the building that fall, saying that the cost of renovations was likely too high and the layout too difficult for modern classrooms.
Preservationists rallied around the building, and National Trust for Historic Preservation named it in 2015 to its annual list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” Orleans Parish School officials promised to hold on to the building for a while longer to give preservationists time to seek out a public entity of some sort to exchange land with the school board and take over the building — the only option under state law that wouldn’t open it to bids from private developers — but warned that they could not justify paying the $100,000 in annual upkeep indefinitely.
Late last year, prefiguring the nearing reality of the building’s sale, Orleans school officials sought a more flexible land-use category from the city of New Orleans for the property, arguing that it would make the building more appealing for potential buyers. Meanwhile, the OPSB also commissioned a new appraisal for the building in November, which priced the property at $3.05 million, a minor increase from the $2.96 million value assigned in June 2014.
“The highest and best use of the property is for renovation and conversion of the historic Carrollton Courthouse building to a multifamily/condominium residential use with demolition of the remaining buildings/improvements and resubdivision of the remaining land area into separate residential lots,” the appraisal contends.
Several other historic Uptown school buildings have undergone similar conversions, such as the LaSalle School on Perrier and the former Free School on Camp Street. The report notes that any attempt to demolish the main building would likely be met with “strenuous opposition” — and City Councilwoman Susan Guidry has said she cannot imagine the City Council ever allowing it — but the report does recommend that the decrepit 1960s-era portable buildings around it be torn down.
Windfeel Properties has now announced that it will conduct an auction for the building March 23 at the school board offices at 3520 General de Gaulle on the Westbank. The auction will be preceded by an open house at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the property at 719 South Carrollton Avenue.