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World Trade Center, Ferry on 'New Orleans Nine' Most Endangered Places List
New Orleans' iconic landmarks take many forms, with live oak trees, tombstones, blighted houses and, of course, really tall buildings, all part of what makes the Crescent City landscape identifiable. But the changing New Orleans landscape leaves many of these spots open to the possibility of going from the list of landmarks to "Ain't Dere No More." Each year, the Louisiana Landmarks Society complies the New Orleans Nine list of most endangered landmarks, and this year's compilation isn't leaving current events out of the mix.
The list, which is compiled through a nomination process, seeks to get the word out about threatened sites. The LLS will hold a reception to recognize the nine on Sunday, June 30, from 4-6 p.m. The free reception is at the LLS headquarters in the Pitot House, located at 1440 Moss St. on Bayou St. John.
“This year’s list focuses on some timely preservation issues we will be grappling with—from the fate of the World Trade Center building and St. Louis Cemeteries No. 1 and 2, to the future of ferry service, and the problem of occupied blighted residences,” said Walter Gallas, LLS executive director.
Two of the selections look to turn the public's attention to the battles brewing at the foot of Canal Street.
Tourism officials want to knock down the long vacant World Trade Center at the foot of the downtown drag to make way for a public sculpture or other type of tourist draw, akin to the gateway arch in St. Louis. The tourism officials argue that option will give New Orleans a site that will be a centerpiece attraction for the city's many visitors.
But that's not the only proposal in the running as part of a plan to revamp the entire downtown. Two other developers want to keep the building in place and renovate. One of the bidders, Gatehouse Capitol, has started planting signs with the tagline "Save the WTC." Leading historic preservation advocates including the Preservation Resource Center have come down on the side of renovating the 1960s-era building. The first meeting about the redevelopment will be held at City Hall on Monday at 10 a.m. The hearing will include a public comment period, and supporters of keeping the building in place plan to rally in front of City Hall at 9 a.m.
"A distinctive structure in the city skyline, the city-owned WTC building is in danger of being demolished even though it is perfectly serviceable and capable of being redeveloped," the LLS writes.
Even closer to the Big Muddy, the Algiers Ferry is staring down a foggy future. In the wake of budget cuts that seemed to doom the commuter boat between the Banks, the state floated the ferry service an extension with reduced hours. That allowed time for a local entity to step in and assume management from the state now that the Crescent City Connection Bridge is no longer in charge of the boat. The ferry dates back to 1827, according to the LLS.
In Treme and the Seventh Ward, the list also includes the area included in the Choice Neighborhood Housing Initiative, which is redeveloping homes to be put back into commerce as part of the federally-backed, mixed-income program. The redevelopment of the Iberville projects is also included in this initiative.
"The City and Housing Authority must take care to ensure that the development of the housing units, along with subsequent commercial endeavors, are sensitive to the historic community and living culture of this area," the LLS writes.
St. Louis Cemeteries No. 1 and 2 are also threatened by the Iberville Redevelopment, according to the Society, earning the Treme burial grounds a place on the list. More than just a backdrop for an Easy Rider acid trip, the LLS holds the cemeteries up as the final resting place of some of New Orleans' most prominent icons and families. Both cemeteries are located adjacent to the Iberville, and could face damage if not properly protected, the LLS writes.
"Extraordinary precautions must be taken to protect and preserve these extremely historic and highly visited sites before any work begins," the LLS writes.
The list isn't only focused on bricks and stones. According to the LLS, the live oak canopy around New Orleans remains under threat of being "butchered for public works projects," LLS writes. Most recently, 100-year-old trees on Napoleon Avenue suffered root damage and branch mutilation. LLS also criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for cutting the trees to move large cranes and other equipment for the river.
"It will be decades before the trees recover, and we will lose much of the scenic character of the city in the process," the LLS writes.
The scene of a large fire in Treme also made this year's list. The house at 1347 Esplanade Ave. burned in a four-alarm fire on Easter Sunday as owner Joan Brooks looked on. The LLS is looking to ensure that the Italianate Greek Revival-style cottage at 1347 Esplanade Ave. - which was already dilapidated before the fire - is repaired.
"Rain now freely pours into this irreplaceable building, causing further damage," the LLS writes. "Anchoring a prominent corner of Esplanade, this building cannot afford to be lost."
The list also spotlights blighted, historic buildings that the Society feels could be threatened with demolition by neglect if they are not protected and renovated.
An Italianate double gallery duplex in Central City at 1828-30 Baronne Street has been given designation as landmarks by the city's Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC), but the building's owner has left the house in "serious decline," the LLS writes. A former school at 1831 Polymnia St. was given the same designation, but the three story building is currently uninhabitable and has no plans for redevelopment anytime soon.
The ninth entry on the list is reserved for Blighted Occupied Residences, which have gained attention as part of Mayor Mitch's Fight the Blight initiative and other programs in the wake of the Federal Flood.
"An occupied home should not be lost to a city authority because the owner does not maintain it to government standards," the LLS writes. "Only proactive solutions that first stabilize a blighted residence can address the most complex cases while still respecting constitutional property rights. The city must strive to support homeowners while preserving the historic built environment of our neighborhoods."
Stephen Babcock contributed reporting.
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