Plan to renovate cottages on South Liberty near Louisiana wins widespread praise

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Three houses in the project are on the front of the 3400 block of South Liberty Street, while three others are in the rear. (via Google)

A developer’s plan to renovate a cluster of double shotguns on South Liberty Street into a series of two-family cottages is being hailed as a model of affordable historic renovation by neighbors, other builders and preservation activists as the project nears a hearing before the City Planning Commission next week.

An overhead view of the six cottages being renovated in the 3400 block of South Liberty Street. (via Google)

The project consists of six houses, all neighboring double shotguns on the lake side of the 3400 block of South Liberty Street. Three of the homes — 3417-19, 3421-23 and 3425-27 — sit at the front of their lot on South Liberty, while the other three (called “3417A-19A,” “3421A-23A” and “3425A-27A”) are each in their backyards.

Developer Jason Riggs plans to renovate all six homes into five doubles and one single — 3425A-27A will be redesigned into one home — for a total of 11 units. Most of the units will be about 720 square feet, while the two sides of 3425-27 will be slightly smaller at 660 square feet, and the single will be 858 square feet.

A rendering of the renovated front of 3425-27 South Liberty and the rear-yard house, which will become a single. (via city of New Orleans)

That original higher density of four units to a lot was previously considered a legal nonconforming use in the otherwise two-family residential district, but the properties lost that grandfathered status after becoming vacant and falling into disrepair prior to Riggs’ purchase of them. Thus, Riggs will need a conditional-use permit for multi-family homes from the City Council in order to restore them as they were.

The project has garnered not only a positive recommendation from city planners, but also acclaim from other housing and preservation groups. Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans wrote that it has been redeveloping homes in that same area for years, and welcomes Riggs’ work as a positive addition.

“Bringing these blighted houses into commerce will provide the area with much-needed rental units while also improving the neighborhood by eliminating blight and providing a safe and healthy environment for the new members of the neighborhood as well as the existing community,” according to the letter from Neighborhood Housing Services.

The Louisiana Landmarks Society noted that the use of historic tax credits will require that the project is overseen by the State Historic Preservation Office, ensuring that the renovations are done appropriately.

“Restoring these homes to their intended use is both in line with preservation best practice and city policy regarding housing affordability and diversity,” wrote the Louisiana Landmarks Society. “… We see this very ambitious project as an opportunity to restore severely blighted historic structures where many owners would simply request demolition.”

The Preservation Resource Center also named the restoration project a model for other developers, especially because they will be used for long-term housing units rather than short-term rentals.

“These buildings have remained vacant and deteriorating for years, negatively affecting the health and safety of adjacent residents and property owners,” the Preservation Resource Center wrote. “The applicant plans to use historic tax credits to finance the project, showcasing how this critical financial incentive can be effectively used at a smaller, yet incredibly impactful, scale. Their restoration preserves the historic integrity of the surrounding neighborhood while the additional residential density is in line with the City’s goal of increasing the
supply of housing in areas close to transit and employment opportunities.”

The Delachaise Neighborhood Association and several neighbors also wrote in support of the project for similar reasons.

The project was previously scheduled for a hearing last month, but was delayed at the last minute because of a technical issue related to its public notice. It is now scheduled for the July 10 meeting of the City Planning Commission, which will be held at 1:30 p.m. in City Council chambers at City Hall.

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