Central City Partners Break Ground on New Orleans Redevelopment Project

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorNew Orleans—Central City Partners, a team comprised of St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, KAI Design & Build, the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NONDC), and Urban Strategies, have broken ground on its $172 million, 555,000-sq.-ft. C.J. Peete, a HOPE VI Housing Redevelopment project in New Orleans. At build out, which is slated for early 2011, the site will include 460 affordable and market-rate apartments.“In the post-Katrina environment in New Orleans, there exists a critical need for new housing that accommodates families at different income levels,” says Vince Bennett, executive vice president of McCormack Baron Salazar.  “The public policy towards mixed-income communities has been established at both state and local levels that moves development of new projects in neighborhoods away from over-concentration of very low income households towards housing opportunities for families at mixed-income levels.” Originally constructed in 1941, C.J. Peete comprised 1,403 units in 1955. In 1997, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), with plans for revitalization, demolished approximately half of the site. Following Hurricane Katrina, the remaining buildings were destroyed in 2008. Plans for C.J. Peete’s redevelopment include mostly new construction, save for two historic buildings.“Since the storm, there has been a real need for affordable, mixed-income housing all across the city. This part of the city flooded, so I know there are lots of families that are displaced and in need of a new home,” Nathan Rauh, AIA, NCARB, housing studio leader, KAI Design & Build, says.Plans for the new 30-acre C.J. Peete site include 115 buildings, which will comprise 410 garden apartments and townhomes, a 40-unit low-rise building that will house the management office and community gathering space and 10 units within one of the historic buildings, as well as a new park at the southern end of the site. In addition, NONDC is developing 50 single-family homes on parcels throughout the neighborhood, under the same HOPE VI Housing program.”In our opinion, and experience in developing large-scale mixed income communities in urban areas across the country, it is important that rental housing choices be afforded to families at various income levels. We design our developments at a high level, and are of the opinion thatfamilies and units should not be distinguished by income. With good property management, the mixed-income development becomes a net contributer to neighborhood stability and growth,” Bennett tells MHN. C.J. Peete will offer one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom residences, ranging in size from approximately 700 to 1,500 sq. ft. The project, which will incorporate a number of green features, including Energy Star appliances, efficient heating and cooling systems and low-flow fixtures, has the potential for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, says Rauh.Urban Strategies will provide resident services, including job training and placement, technology programs and child care, as well as access to physical and mental health services, senior programs, and enrichment activities for children and youth. In addition, Urban Strategies is working with the Recovery School District to rebuild and reopen Woodson Middle School as a K-8 school.KAI is providing architectural, interior, mechanical, electrical and plumbing/fire protection design on the project, as well as coordination and management of the engineering consultant team. Torti Gallas & Partners is the project’s master planner, and New Orleans-based Woodward Design & Build is serving as the project’s general contractor.The project was financed through permanent sources of funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD), the HANO, the Louisiana Office of Community Development, the Louisiana Industrial Development Board and Goldman Sachs, who purchased tax credits awarded by the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency. Additional funding for pre-development and community supportive services and activities is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Living Cities and the Ford Foundation.  “The first major hurdle was identifying a national equity investor to achieve initial construction closing. Goldman Sachs was able to undertake its due diligence in an expedited manner within 60 days to close on the last day of 2008 to meet deadline requirements of state and local agencies,” asserts Bennett.