Central City resident Lawrence Brooks, the nation’s oldest living World War II veteran at 112, is back at his home after a recent stay at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and a few nights in the intensive care unit. When his daughter and caregiver, Vanessa Brooks, was notified of his impending release last Thursday (Nov. 4), she was asked whether she planned to ride home with him in the ambulance. She shook her head and laughed. “He’ll have six people with him,” she said.
La Vie En Rose Café, a colorful coffee and pastry shop, has moved into a space at 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. and will officially open the doors of their new location on June 22. The building is also home to art studio Big Sexy Neon, and formerly housed the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, before their move to St Claude Ave. in Arabi. The café’s space, located in the front of the building, was the previous location of Church Alley Coffee and Orleans Coffee House.
Plans to revive the historic Dew Drop Inn music venue and hotel in Central City moved another step forward last week with the City Council’s unanimous approval. “Putting this back into commerce is a wonderful, wonderful thing,” said District B Councilman Jay Banks before the conditional use application went up for a vote. “It adds to the musical legacy of the wonderfully musical city that we have. I am extremely excited about this.” The council attached 11 provisos to the approval to make sure the developer will provide a passenger drop-off zone, noise abatement, a landscape plan and other city requirements, but no off-street parking is required of the development.
The real estate market in Central City is hot right now. At the high end, a house on South Rampart Street recently sold for $600,000 and two others, on Josephine Street and South Liberty Street, have sold in the $400,000 range. At the other end of the price and move-in ready spectrum, a house on South Robertson Street, which looks like it is only a façade covered in cat’s claw at this point, sold for $30,000. These homes and prices also reflect the evolving housing stock of the neighborhood. A quick drive around reveals modest family homes next to abandoned houses in a state of an advanced decay next to gleaming renovations.
Listening to the radio while driving nine years ago, Alison Parker heard a segment about the book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline, and it opened her eyes to the problem of waste and pollution in the fashion and clothing business.
“I knew I could no longer sit on the sidelines and do nothing,” Parker said. Eventually, it lead her to found ricRACK, a nonprofit organization its website describes as “combining creative skill building with environmental responsibility.”
Everything that ricRACK does, Parker said, in some way combats the waste prevalent in the fashion industry, which is estimated be the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and pollutes the oceans with micro plastics. What’s more, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year. And when this happens, the dyes and chemicals from the fabrics leach into the ground water and release greenhouse gasses.
To promote the productive recycling of clothes, ricRACK has opened a thrift store in Central City that sells donated clothes as well as those that have been used in films and TV shows, and sponsors a variety of sewing classes. Parker herself worked in the costume department for Cirque du Soleil for five years and then as a costume designer for theater and films, so she has those connections.
The space at 1618 Oretha Castle Haley surely never looked like this before. The Big Sexy Neon studio is filled floor-to-ceiling with fantastic new neon works and vintage signs waiting to be restored. There are fleurs-de-lis, there are corkscrews, there are quirky signs, there are gorgeous works of art — all on dazzling display. Nearly a year ago to the day, Nate Sheaffer signed a lease on the space that formerly housed the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Art Center, which is now on St. Claude Avenue in Arabi.
Mardi Gras parades may be cancelled, but that hasn’t stopped residents of Central City from turning their neighborhood into a festive Wonderland. Central City is one of the many neighborhoods participating in Yardi Gras, an alternative to Mardi Gras parades where homeowners decorate their own houses as floats. On the 3200 block of Dryades, for example, residents are working together to turn four homes into “Alice in Wonderland”-themed house floats.
Friends and neighbors came together on Saturday to start putting up whimsical decorations. One house was the Cheshire Cat, and the others were the Queen of Hearts, the Caterpillar and the Mad Hatter. The neighbors shared pizza and art supplies as they decorated, and music kept everyone bouncing.
“We have all embraced it, and we have had a lovely time,” said Shirley Madison, the Queen of Hearts.
The Office of Neighborhood Engagement hosted a pre-construction meeting Thursday to inform Central City and Lower Garden District residents about bicycle infrastructure improvements coming to their neighborhoods. Construction on the project on the East Bank began in August 2020, and the Thursday meeting allowed residents to view the proposals for their area. The project will bring bike lanes and street redesigns to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from St. Charles Avenue to South Broad Street, Melpomene Street from St. Charles Avenue to Camp Street, Baronne Street from Calliope to Phillips Street, South Galvez Street from MLK to Erato Street, and South Broad Street from Fourth Street to Thalia Street.
The former St. Francis de Sales Church is featured in the Preservation Resource Center’s Preservation Fest 2020, a full day of free online programs.
Built circa 1867, just two years after the Civil War, the stately St. Francis de Sales Church served as a Catholic church parish until 2008, when it was sold by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and deconsecrated. The wooden church building remained vacant for nine years and fell into disrepair before developer Peter Gardner purchased it in 2017 and commenced an extensive restoration. Today from 12:30 to 1 p.m., take a virtual tour of the property here on the PRC Facebook page. For a Preservation Fest schedule, see here.
Iconic baguette producer Leidenheimer Baking Co. wants to expand its factory, but some of its Central City neighbors are pushing back. Leidenheimer, one of the city’s premier providers of po-boy loaves, wants to add 23,436 square feet to its factory at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Simon Bolivar Avenue, doubling its size. The renovations are designed to modernize its space and increase its production capacity. Public feedback in response to these plans has revealed neighborhood complaints of disruptive after-hours deliveries, noise pollution, air pollution, litter, emission of black soot that stains neighboring buildings, and traffic and parking difficulties.