NCDC Update II

2337-39 Piety St. (1)
2337-39 Piety St. Property on the Oct. 20th NCDC agenda.

As many of you know, I serve as the Dist. B representative for the Neighborhood Conservation District Review Committee. I hestitate to write about it here because it always seems like a long story. Since the last time I wrote, we adopted our new rules and have elected a new Chair and Co-Chair. Ed Horan doesn’t really like being Chair because he is so busy but he does a bang-up job and we really like him a whole lot in the role. He can pronounce the street names and does a very good job of following protocols. He’s always sure to ask, “What is the pleasure of the committee?” so that we stay on track and get down to voting rather than getting sucked up in too much discussion. We really appreciate his work as Chair.

Last Monday, we covered 122 properties in three hours. We were totally exhausted and had to leave some properties from next time. Members Marty Rowland and Roz Peychaud suggested that we do a global motion for demolition for the remaining properties on our agenda before adjourning, but this makes no sense since the properties are listed alphabetically and completely unrelated, it was a sign of fatigue. So Helen and I motioned to stop the meeting and defer the rest of the properties until next time. There is hardly ever a reason to do a global vote on properties. Global motions to demolish are merely a sign of us having had enough for one day.

Preparing for the NCDC meetings takes a lot of time because our agendas are very large. Most of the properties are clearly damaged but we have been running into about 30% of them which are marginal and require a site visit to be sure of the damage and to see the effect that their demolition will have on the surrounding properties. It’s actually very enlightening to go out and see them in person.

I took time out from studying Sunday to do some site visits with a fellow committee member. We visited a handful of properties some of which were not already documented by Karen Gadbois at Squandered Heritage nor the Preservation Resource Center.

We found only a couple properties which were in great shape and not worthy of the Imminent Health Threat reasons for demolition. By talking to neighbors, we located one owner who did not know her property was on the City’s list. Her husband recently passed and she was glad to know about the meeting on October 20th. If we can save one or two people a whole lot of money who can renovate instead of start from scratch, it’s worth sacrificing our Sunday morning sleep-in.

I find that we always learn something new too. We stumbled upon this strange construction method at the property at 1632-34 N. Claiborne Ave. It was used at the base for plaster work done in the interior walls of the home, we could see it because the weatherboards were gone in some areas.

1632-34 N. Claiborne Ave. (4)

I had never seen it before. The overpass area across from this area is rich with midden in the immediate area but these shells are not broken like midden, suggesting a deliberate and earlier use of the material. We tried to pull a chunk out but it’s about 2 ft. deep and unforgiving. I asked Willie White about it and he said this;

” It dates from the 1880’s when the building code specified this procedure to keep rats out of houses. Not very common to find this any more and kind of unusual that it contained so many reef shells, as I have seen it many times to include just plaster or plaster and gravel aggregate. ”

Between this little learning discovery about early building codes/materials which I might never have seen, and being able to notify an elderly widow about the City’s plan to start demolishing her well-kept property, it was a very good day to be out in the field which is why I love serving on the committee, it’s very rewarding and meaningful work.

Sometimes we lose some valuable structures, even when we follow the process of historical review. This one is really neat, historically significant. It was voted down by a margin last Monday.

2683 New Orleans St.

It’s structurally sound, the awning looks bad as well as the weeds but it could be refurbished. It’s a very cool piece of architecture and it’s on a corner lot, which would make for a nasty overgrown lot which no one will maintain if it is demolished. Surely, nothing will be gained by that. It may have been a NORA property, if so, it should have been taken back by NORA and put back on the ‘market’. Back in the day, they overbuilt properties, they didn’t cut corners to save money like they do in new construction. Thus, due to it’s architectural significance, as an increasingly diminishing number of New Orleans’ corner stores, every effort should be taken to place it in the hands of someone who can possibly save it. If it were to continue to lag and become a threat to neighbors, I could see demolishing it then, but right now, it’s solid.

I believe in giving some of these unique buildings more time. There are plenty of stuctures in worse shape which need to be demolished right now, this is not one of them. Especially since it is a city initiated demo with no plans for redevelopment. Fellow writer, Daneeta Loretta, pointed out some great old landmarks in her post of lost structures, we should learn from our past mistakes.

It’s a part-time job to be sure the proper procedures are followed from the City to the NCDC so that we don’t make any errors by accidentally demolishing homes which are in great shape or in which the proper notification wasn’t done by the city or its contractors and that homes in the process of renovation aren’t accidentally demolished. I try to remain clear headed about all this but at times, it really is madness.

2 Comments so far

  1. termite on October 13th, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

    Laureen! great post! these past years i’ve looked forward to anything you write.
    always chalked with good information with an a uplifting slant. :)
    (how nice!)

    thanks again sugar.

    Geaux Saints!

  2. Laureen Lentz (no_laureen) on October 14th, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

    Thanks so much, Termite! I am so busy these days, it’s hard to find time but there’s certainly no lack of material in this city.

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