PRC’s Holiday Home Tour showcases Garden District homes, plus local authors at a Holiday Book Fest

A New Orleans tradition — the Preservation Resource Center’s Holiday Home Tour — has returned to its pre-pandemic format. The PRC’s 47th annual Holiday Home Tour opens the doors to six Garden District homes and one bonus building, all dressed up for the holidays. Festivities also include live musical performances, a gift boutique, book signings, author talks and more. The PRC’s Holiday Boutique offers handmade jewelry, artwork and other gift items. As part of the boutique, the PRC will host its second annual Holiday Book Fest with a full schedule of talks by local authors. The PRC Holiday Book Fest and Holiday Home Tour Boutique are free and open to the public — no ticket required.

Renovation of blighted firehouse to begin in 2024, developers say

The firehouse redevelopment team updated the Delachaise Neighborhood Association at the group’s November meeting about the plans for the blighted firehouse on Louisiana Avenue. The historic firehouse will be renovated to include seven units of permanently affordable housing upstairs, with an early childhood education center on the ground floor. The early childhood education center will also occupy the property’s outdoor space and an “accessory structure” behind the main building. 

The city owns the property and is leasing it to the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) for a 99-year term; NORA is currently managing the property but will sublease it to the development partner, who will put the building and surrounding space back into use. 

The developers for the project are Alembic Community Development, Home by Hand, Studio Kiro (the architecture firm overseeing the restoration of the Dew Drop Inn on LaSalle Street) and CDW Services as the general contractors. 

Members of the Alembic development team as well as NORA representative Seth Knudsen gave the updates on the project. Alembic team member Jonathan Leit was optimistic about the physical state of the building. “There’s always work to be done but, compared to other buildings we’ve worked on, it’s in pretty good shape,” Leit said. 

The overall cost of the renovations is expected to be around $4 million, and Leit said that they hope to have funding secured by the end of next year, with construction beginning in 2024 and the apartments and childhood education center ready to open in 2025.

Developers plan to turn Our Lady of Lourdes into a reception hall

Plans are in the works to turn the long-dormant Our Lady of Lourdes church on Napoleon Avenue into a reception hall and event venue. The project is in the early stages of development — so early that the developer named in a letter informing neighbors about the plans, Arts Design Hospitality + Development, is not registered with the state. “The LLC has not been formulated yet,” said Zach Smith, a land-use consultant working with the developers. “But eventually we have two individuals who will comprise that group.”

David Fusilier, a contractor with Perle Construction, and Doug Cloninger, director of Amicus Investment Holdings, plan to purchase and renovate the century-old building, listed at $1.25 million. The church anchors the uptown-lake corner of the square block bounded by Napoleon, La Salle, Jena and Freret.

New York investors buy the Whole Foods building on Magazine

A New York investment group has purchased Arabella Station, the home of Whole Foods Market on Magazine Street, for $31.4 million, property records show. Whole Foods has a long-term lease on the former bus barn and is expected to remain. The property that takes up the entire block at 5600 Magazine St. was purchased by DK WFNO, a limited liability company operated by Debra Kalimian. Kalimian runs D&R Holding and A&R Kalimian Realty out of offices in Manhattan, records show.

Fine Arts Theater stages a comeback on Baronne Street corridor

A revival is taking place at a century-old movie house in the Milan neighborhood. 
When it began life in 1917, the Fine Arts Theater at Constantinople and Baronne streets anchored a small but thriving neighborhood business corridor. 
That was still true in 1946, when Dave Martin opened Martin Wine Cellar a block away. Nearby residents were within walking distance of nearly everything a family might need. There was a pharmacy, barber shop, laundry, tailor, meat market, grocery store and bakery — plus the neighborhood movie theater. Now the Fine Arts Theater building, a city landmark fresh off of a nearly $2 million redevelopment, holds the promise of revitalizing the small business district. 
Zee’s Pizzeria has moved into the Fine Arts building’s row of commercial spaces on Baronne. Beth Biundo Sweets, a bakery, is across the street, and Lucy Boone Ice Cream plans to open a shop next to Zee’s in the Fine Arts. And, of course, Martin Wine & Spirits continues to offer a deli as well as packaged adult beverages.