By Claire Byun
A mostly-blighted property off the Lafitte Greenway is undergoing major development this year thanks to a warehouse restoration project.
The New Orleans Redevelopment Fund (NORF) officially broke ground on restoring the former Times Picayune Annex warehouse on 2720 St. Louis St Wednesday. The $4 million project will restore the warehouse to a mix of offices, retail and possibly eateries fronting the Greenway with a hopeful completion date of early 2018.
Cullan Maumus, NORF Development Director, said the redevelopment is breathing life back into a sometimes-forgotten stretch of the Greenway while spurring other projects near the warehouse.
“We’re hoping this gives people more options to stop along the Greenway,” Maumus said. “The Greenway isn’t just a means to an end; it has destinations all along it.”
The 20,000 square-foot warehouse already has three committed tenants: New Orleans Redevelopment Fund; Albert Architecture; and Hernandez Consulting & Construction. NARF purchased the property about a year ago and officials have been working with city planners to develop a project suited for the mixed-use zoning. The three committed tenants will occupy about 6,000 square feet of the warehouse; the other space is marketed for lease and is receiving interest from various companies seeking office space, medical practitioners, and food service operators, Maumus said.
Friends of Lafitte Greenway have been working for years to revitalize the greenspace across the city. Sophie Harris, executive director of Friends, said the new development helps focus reinvestment into pedestrian-friendly spaces.
The Lafitte Corridor Revitalization Plan, developed by the city, identifies the Greenway’s Broad Street intersection as a key location, which makes the St. Louis Street development even more promising.
“We are seeing this revitalization take shape as folks breath new life into historic buildings – first in the ReFresh Project and Whole Foods, then the Broad Theater, and now in this commercial development,” Harris said.
Alex Hernandez, of Hernandez Consulting, said it’s important for future tenants to have a connection to the Greenway and understand its value.
“The Greenway is an asset to this community,” Hernandez said.
Crews bulldozed some of the former warehouse on Wednesday, but most of the work starts Thursday when parts of the roof will be replaced. Since the building has historic value, contractors are keeping the warehouse’s scaffolding and surface parking lot.
Project funding includes state and federal Historic Redevelopment Tax Credits, and private investor capital, Maumus said.
Developers hope this project spurs more development along the North Broad Street section of the Greenway, which is littered by blighted buildings and homes. As for now, those wanting access to the warehouse have to enter on St. Louis Street, but some still choose to crawl over a fence and tightrope-like concrete barrier over the canal. That’s why developers are needling the city to build a pedestrian bridge over the canal, connecting the street and the park.
“The warehouse and the Greenway are assets to each other,” Maumus said.