A long-awaited decision on historic landmark status for the Carrollton Courthouse may be decided by city officials next month, now that the sale of the building from the Orleans Parish School Board was finally completed in the spring.
A group of investors representing Colonial Oaks Senior Living in Houston, Texas, placed the winning $4.7 million bid on the building at a School Board surplus property auction in March 2017, but the actual sale transaction took until late March of this year to complete, officials and developers said.
When local preservationists first learned that the building was planned for sale, they requested it be considered for landmark status through the Historic Districts Landmarks Commission. The commission could not consider the request until the sale to private owners was complete, and in the meantime all of Carrollton Avenue has already been placed under the full-control of the district.
With the sale now complete, however, the landmark designation is still pending before the HDLC, and appeared on its agenda Thursday afternoon.
Patrick Schindler of Felicity Property Company, one of the local partners in the redevelopment project, told committee members that the developers do not oppose the landmark status. They requested a one-month deferral, however, because Colonial Oaks CEO Carl Mittendorff and other officials could not be present for the decision, and the HDLC unanimously agreed.
“We asked for the extension so they could be here for nomination and get caught up to speed on that,” Schindler said after the meeting.
Full jurisdiction gives the HDLC control over not only any proposed demolition at the building, but also any changes that are visible from Carrollton Avenue — essentially, the entire exterior of the structure. Schindler said that the development team does not see the additional landmark designation as any more onerous, and that his team does not plan any changes that would likely run afoul of preservationists.
“It’s such a treasure,” Schindler said.
Gordon McLeod, chief of staff for District City Councilman Joe Giarrusso, agreed that the distinction between landmark status and HDLC control is “not a whole lot.” The importance of the courthouse, however, suggests that the landmark designation is still warranted, he said.
“I think anyone could pretty much agree that the Carrollton Courthouse is worthy of landmark status,” McLeod said, noting that the developers’ plans will have to pass muster with state preservation standards in order to qualify for tax credits. “They’re not opposed to the landmark designation, because they agree the building should have that status. They’re aiming to do this right anyway.”
Sandra Stokes of the Louisiana Landmarks Society said preservationists believe that the additional landmark designation is deserved by the building.
“We’re really happy to have another landmarked building in New Orleans,” Stokes said. “We’re hoping it includes not just the building, but the site as well.”
Stokes said she hopes the designation will not be delayed beyond the next HDLC meeting, and said the Louisiana Landmarks Society would be happy to work with the developers to maintain the historic integrity of the building.
“We’re thrilled that we’ve gotten to the point of landmark status on this building,” Stokes said. “We’re sorry that it got deferred this week, but we look forward to it coming to fruition very soon.”