After almost five years of study, deliberation and debate, the Mid-City Local Historic District has officially been created.
New Orleans City Council voted to approve the creation of Mid-City’s district and the Parkview Local Historic District, as proposed by the Historic Preservation Study Committee, at their meeting Thursday. That vote comes after several months of deferral, though an August public meeting drew much praise for the creation of historic districts in Uptown, Mid-City and Parkview.
“I would like to thank all of you here today for your support and hard work on this,” said District A Councilmember Susan Guidry. “I’m very happy see this pass.”
Five people spoke in favor of the historic district at Thursday’s meeting.
The City Planning Commission recommended modified approval of Mid-City’s historic district after a study committee reviewed both the number of historic landmarks and the Historic District Landmarks Commission’s ability to oversee it. The original motion proposed HDLC control the demolition and new construction in Mid-City, but city staff argued HDLC only needs to oversee demolition.
City staff recommended the council approve Parkview’s designation as a historic district without any changes meaning new construction and demolition would be controlled by HDLC.
City staff are shooting for a target date of Jan. 1 to begin regulating the new districts.
Both Parkview and Mid-City are designated as National Historic Districts by the National Park Service, though the federal branch does not control any aspect of construction, demolition or renovation. Neither neighborhoods are in Local Historic Districts so they are currently not subject to any review from HDLC either.
The Mid-City Local Historic District will be bordered by City Park Avenue, St. Louis Street, North Claiborne Avenue and Interstate 10. The Parkview Local Historic District would include areas within Moss, St. Louis and North Rocheblave streets and City Park, Esplanade and Orleans avenues.
City staff recommended approval based on four main reasons; firstly, Mid-City contains a “high degree of architecturally and historically significant structures that should be protected from unnecessary demolition,” city documents show.
Next, much of the district’s construction and redevelopment is already overseen by the City Planning Commission or the HDLC. Third, the district has a common history and development pattern.
Lastly, the historic district moniker is consistent with the city’s Master Plan.
Designating Mid-City as a historic district was first suggested five years ago, and had been studied in earnest starting last year.
After considering reports and surveys submitted by a review committee tasked with scrutinizing the proposal’s feasibility, City Planning Commission in late September voted that the designations should be created, and the Historic District Landmarks Commission should be given limited oversight in both areas.
Specifically, the commission decided homeowners in Mid-City and Parkview neighborhoods should have to seek permission from the HDLC only before tearing down buildings.
It was one of several options residents considered when giving input about what level of control they’d like over development in their areas. Other options would be to allow the HDLC oversight over new buildings and renovations, too, or to not give the regulatory agency any control over either new construction or demolition at all.
The historic district moniker was established to “preserve and stabilize neighborhoods through the protection of those structures that represent the character and quality of the neighborhood or the architectural history of New Orleans and to promote redevelopment that contributes to the historic character of the neighborhood,” according to city documents.
The historical designation is used for many reasons, including: preventing intrusion of buildings that are not in character with the surroundings; advantages and incentives in the form of investment tax credits, façade easements, and restoration tax abatements; and the “demolition by neglect” provisions of the HDLC assist in preventing the deterioration of existing structures.
During an August City Planning Commission meeting, two people spoke in favor of the historic district and two others argued against it. Sandra Stokes, representing the Louisiana Landmark Society, spoke in support of the motion and asked to modify district lines.
Emily Leitzinger, representing Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, spoke in opposition to the original motion: MCNO officials were in favor of HDLC control over demolition but not new construction.
[12/20/2016: This article originally overstated the reach of authority for the HDLC and has since been updated.]