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Apartments, retail planned for former Higgins building

27 Dec 2013

New Orleans-based Green Coast Enterprises and Crescent City Community Land Trust recently began work to restore and redevelop the former Industries Building at 234 Loyola Ave., across from Duncan Plaza, into a mixed-use, mixed-income complex.

The development will include about 80 one- and two-bedroom market rate and low-income apartments on the upper floors and roughly 22,000 square feet of commercial space across the two bottom floors.

Van Temple, the trust’s executive director, said his company and Green Coast Enterprises acquired the 10-story office tower from developer Lou Talebloo about a year ago for an undisclosed amount.

Orleans Parish records show that Talebloo bought the building in 2004 for $875,000. He planned a similar development but the project never materialized, and the building has sat vacant and gutted since 2010.

Temple said the building dates back to 1909 and was once the home of the Knights of Pythias, an African-American fraternal order that spawned from a Civil War-era organization. The building also housed a jazz hall, a community theater and offices for companies that Pythian knights operated.

After serving the knights into the late 1930s, the building became the hiring office for boat builder Andrew Higgins, whose famed landing craft helped shuttle Allied troops onto the beaches of Normandy and other World War II battlefields. Higgins maintained the 10th-floor dance hall as a place for soldiers and sailors to gather before being sent off to war.

In the 1950s, building owners covered the original facade of ornate stone and brick with a contemporary steel and glass wall cladding.

Temple said the trust and Green Coast Enterprises are working with Landis Construction on the restoration and interior construction. He said contractors recently started the first phase of construction, which includes removal of the modern cladding and stabilization of exterior bricks. The removal should take about a month.

Wayne Troyer Architects designed the project.

Lex Kelso, a principal partner with Green Coast Enterprises, said a financing package for the interior construction work is still being developed and would not disclose the project’s budget. The developers expect to close on all financing, including federal and state historic tax credits, by late spring, with construction starting soon after that.

Kelso, whose company specializes in energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly designs, said the development would qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. A completely gutted building works to their advantage because it allows them to install all new energy-efficient systems and amenities, he said.

Temple said the development will target future employees of the nearby biomedical corridor between Tulane Avenue and Canal Street.

“You are starting to see a real transition on this end of Loyola Avenue in terms of development,” Temple said. “The neighborhood has become a hub for urban living. Our goal is to attract medical technicians, nurses and others working downtown who might not be able to afford current CBD rents.”

Kelso said the development group has identified several possible tenants for the commercial space but would not disclose any targeted businesses. The commercial spaces will be built out based on the needs of the tenant, he added.

The developers aim for the commercial space to be filled by mid-2015 and all residences occupied by early 2016.