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Partner Spotlight: GCE Green Development

By Green Coast on 25 Aug 2015

GCE Green Development Project on the 2400 block of Bienville Street in Mid-City New Orleans
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GCE Green Development Project on the 2400 block of Bienville Street in Mid-City New Orleans

Sometimes opportunity can present itself in unusual ways.

Frank Burkhardt, GCE Green Development senior project manager, was riding his bike in the Treme neighborhood in May 2014 when he saw firefighters battling a blaze that was consuming a historic Esplanade Avenue mansion. Burkhardt quickly snapped a photo, sent it to his boss and called him.

“He told me we should buy it,” recalls Ramsey Green, head of GCE Green Development and Green Coast partner. Some developers might have viewed this as a chance to demolish the building, which had been built in the 1850s near the corner of Claiborne and Esplanade avenues (1722 Esplanade Ave), and construct something new. But that’s the antithesis of Ramsey and Green Coast’s approach.

“The majority of carbon emissions come from buildings, so the most sustainable thing a builder can do is bring back an historic structure,” explains Green.

Focusing on restoring blighted historic buildings like the one on Esplanade, the GCE Green Development and Green Coast partnership is committed to producing a portfolio of historic, energy-efficient housing in New Orleans. To date, the partnership has a total of 66 units leased, under construction, or in design, including the award-winning Bienville Street project that was completed last year.

The team looks for neighborhoods that could benefit from public and private infrastructure improvements, such as the Bienville Street apartments, which are two blocks from the new VA Hospital on Canal Street and close to the ReFresh complex on Broad Street, which includes a Whole Foods grocery store. During the construction phase, GCE Green Development will leverage historic rehabilitation tax credits to historically renovate properties while also improving energy efficiency with features such as tankless water heaters, thicker insulation, high-quality HVAC systems and strengthening the building’s storm resiliency with stronger roofs and windows.

GCE Green Development purchased 1722 Esplanade Avenue in late 2014, and the renovation will be completed this November. Green and Burkhardt have managed to take the fire-devastated and vacant Creole mansion and rehabilitate it into 10 historically rendered apartments that are close to the French Quarter and all that Esplanade Avenue has to offer.

Green stresses that renovating and rehabbing historic structures takes a lot of thought, but it is worth it to the community and residents.

“I’m proud of the approach we use in renovating these historic structures,” says Green. “We are taking something that was built with care and consideration, and what we do is add to it, making it more resilient, comfortable and efficient.”

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