The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority is taking steps to renovate the dilapidated firehouse at 2314 Louisiana Ave. The agency is seeking community input on how to redevelop the 7,000-square-foot city-owned building.
On Wednesday evening (March 10), NORA hosted a community meeting via Zoom. The historic firehouse is blighted, and NORA’s goal put it back into commerce.
Seth Knudsen, NORA’s real estate development director, said the vacant firehouse is zoned as a historic urban mixed-use district, or HU-MU, which permits residential use as well as a variety of commercial uses from child care to medical and dental clinics to grocery stores and more.
“When we consider the range of things that’s permitted, this is among the most diverse zoning districts in the city and really contemplates a pretty wide range of possible future uses for the structure,” Knudsen said.
NORA manages thousands of properties that are deemed blighted, including those acquired from the Road Home program following Hurricane Katrina. Created by the state in 1968, NORA is a public agency charged with revitalization of the city’s underinvested areas.
In the case of the firehouse, NORA is the lessee of the property for a period of 99 years, and facilitates the redevelopment process, including overseeing construction bids.
After NORA’s brief presentation on the project, the (virtual) floor was opened for ideas of how the property could be used to best serve the community.
One attendee, Jason Riggs, suggested the property could be a community center with after-school programs, while Donna Robertson of the Delachaise Neighborhood Association said that she would pose the question to the group and get back to NORA officials with their responses.
Attendee Ron Collins suggested that the building could be a technical training center, elaborating that the training could be “in something maybe that doesn’t need a degree. …[People could] get hands-on training and be able to use those skills to go directly into the workforce.”
When Uptown Messenger asked if the work on the property would preserve and restore the facade of the old firehouse, Knudsen replied that this was very likely, though not assured.
“I think it’s a pretty strong assumption, going into it, for us. I don’t know that we will exclude … proposals on the front end that might envision some changes to the exterior,” said Knudsen, who also noted that the eventual developers could use historic building tax credits or historic preservation grants.
An old Fire Department station in the Marigny’s Mandeville Street and another in the St. Claude area on St. Roch Avenue have been renovated with their original exteriors restored.
The Marigny firehouse is used as a co-working space, and the St. Roch firehouse is a private residence. An Uptown fire station on Toledano Street, not far from the Louisiana Avenue site, serves as a dance studio and event venue. All of these buildings are now privately owned.
Uptown Messenger also asked Knudsen if the site was guaranteed to have some of the space used as housing when the renovations were completed.
NORA’s agreement with the city is that the property be used in a way to promote affordable housing and economic development.
“So I think the proposals could skew very heavily one way or the other,” Knudsen said. “It could be all housing or mostly housing, or it could be all economic development or mostly economic or some combination of the two.”
The property is well situated to have commercial use on the bottom floor and housing on the top, he noted, similar to how many historic storefronts in New Orleans were originally used when they were built.
The next step for the project is soliciting developers. According to NORA’s timeline, construction is set to begin next year and will be completed in 2024.
To contact NORA with questions or to provide input for the project, click here.
Seth Knudsen’s name was misspelled in the original post of this story. It was corrected on March 14.