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Team Work Pays Off: Louisiana Landmarks Society Honors The Pythian

By Green Coast on 3 Apr 2018

Calling it a “transformative restoration” the Louisiana Landmarks Society will recognize The Pythian with a 2018 historic preservation award in the category of “Commercial Restoration/Rehabilitation.” The building now houses 69 mixed-income apartments, the soon-to-be open Pythian Market, offices, and an event space.

Originally built in 1909 by the Colored Knights of Pythias, which were led by self-made millionaire and formerly enslaved manSmith Wendell Green, the nine-story building became a nexus for African American businesses, music, culture and featured a theater and jazz hall. Later on, The Pythian served as the headquarters for Higgins Industries, which designed and created the famous “Higgins Boat” landing craft that was instrumental in winning World War II. Following several ownership transfers, the building fell into disrepair for many years.

An undertaking of this magnitude takes a team effort and co-developers Green Coast, ERG Enterprises and Crescent City Community Land Trust assembled a great team: studioWTA architects, Landis Construction Co., GCE Services and others.

Wayne Troyer, partner and design director for studioWTA, says that his firm felt the strength and underlying power The Pythian represented when they first visited it, and by looking at it’s incredible history, the feeling was solidified.

“As we began our research, we quickly realized we had a responsibility in not just revitalizing the facade and bringing back occupancy but to also celebrate the cultural life that S. W. Green intended in representing the spirit and initiative of the African American community,” Troyer says. “We were humbled by this task and felt committed to illustrate the story of the building’s transformation over time and to recreate the original ornamentation to the greatest extent possible.”

Green Coast’s historical tax credit consultant Gina La Macchia put in extensive research and work in assembling the project’s successful historic tax credit application as well as applying for necessary zoning changes.

“I can’t say it was easy, but it was definitely worth it,” says La Macchia. “I’m very proud to be a part of a project acknowledged by Louisiana Landmarks Society that has such a rich social, economic, and musical story.”

From an environmental perspective, GCE Services sought to include green practices and improve the The Pythians’ building performance by making it more energy efficient and comfortable for tenants and other occupants. GCE’s green building director Stephanie Mezynski says that collaboration was one of the keys to the project’s success.

“It was great to work on a team that worked so well together to find solutions that met Green Coast’s LEED goals, and the historic preservation goals while doing it so seamlessly,” Mezynski says.

Landis Construction ensured the project stayed on schedule, kept the other team members informed of its progress, and met the numerous deadlines and city requirements.

“An historic building like this has its challenges, because while you have to stay on schedule and plan, you also aren™t sure what you have with the structure until you peel back the layers,“says Anne Teague Landis. “Our team had to be flexible and creative to adapt to the project’s needs. We really loved this project, because of its historical value, and it allowed us to be part of the effort to return it to the community.”

The 2018 Louisiana Landmarks Society Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation will be presented and celebrated at a program and reception on Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 pm at The Jung Hotel and Residences, 1500 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA 70112.

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