The resurgence of the ‘good old days’ taking shape in Tremé
18th July 2011 · 1 Comment
By Kelly Parker
The beloved sweet shops, bakeries and corner stores that once served as neighborhood staples are no longer, due to urban decay.
If area residents are wondering if it can be done, the Preservation Resource Center says — ‘Yes it can’, and is inviting residents out for a different kind of happy hour.
On Thursday, July 28, the PRC will head to Tremé for its Renovators’ Happy Hour, from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Attendees will see the transformation in progress of three historic buildings within one block in the distinguished neighborhood. The event begins with a self-guided tour of the property located at 1501 St Phillip St. where refreshments and a cash bar will be available. Presentation starts at 6:30pm. (at 1501 St. Phillip St.)
The featured buildings (1501 St. Phillip Street, 1531-33 St. Philip Street and 1601 Ursulines Street) were once severely blighted and are now being renovated by different groups of Tremé residents. All three buildings will have commercial spaces available to lease on the first floor while two of the three will also have residences above.
“We’ve held these events for about 10 years,” Suzanne Blaum, PRC Director of Education and Outreach says. “It happens every month (from April through October). We normally go into renovations in progress; this holds up a great example for the public to experience and be inspired by. They get to hear first hand from the renovators and contractors themselves. It’s a fun event.”
For over three decades, the PRC has promoted the preservation of New Orleans’ historic architecture by expanding the constituency that understands the aesthetic, economic, cultural significance of historic preservation, and by involving residents in preservation projects and services that enhance living in New Orleans.
The buildings all benefitted from the process of Residential Diversity Overlay, a zoning change for the Tremé area approved by the New Orleans City Council last year that allows limited commercial uses in residentially zoned buildings that have historically been used for commercial uses; which could give new life to communities by bringing back neighborhood friendly shops of the past, like bakeries, and grocery stores.
“It’s a workshop in the house,” Patty Gay, PRC Executive Director adds. “We like for the house to be pretty far along (in the renovation process). We have owners and architects involved, so people can ask questions about insulation, etc. It really is useful.”
The upcoming event will be a special one, according to Blaum, because it’s three corner properties in the historic Tremé neighborhood. “The renovators are really hoping that this event is a springboard for public awareness,” she told The Louisiana Weekly. “This is very important to the neighborhood residents, as it promotes the positive revitalization and potential economic impact of the new zoning change.”
Blaum adds that the properties will also provide the public with a ‘little walking tour of Tremé and the opportunity to meet the people who live there and that are making such great strides there.’
“We know what these places could look like,” Naydja Bynum told The Louisiana Weekly. “We’re excited about showing it; we’re proud of what we do, but we’d also like to encourage others to do the same.”
Bynum and her husband Adolph (owners of Doby Properties, LLC) purchased the 1601 Ursulines property at a city auction in 2004. The couple saw the potential in the building, despite the problems and neglect in the neighborhood. “We love doing this; we can see beyond any coverage or the mess that may hide the architecture.”
1601 Ursulines was once known as Picou’s Bar and Grocery, and was owned by Creole clarinetist Alphonse Picou. Once renovation is complete, the Bynums will have 1800 square-feet of commercial space downstairs along with a three bedroom apartment with a city view upstairs.
1531-33 St. Philip- known to previous generations as the Caledonia (or the ‘Cal’) where the legendary Professor Longhair and other noted musicians performed, has been transformed into a one bedroom apartment on the second floor, with large commercial space on the first floor.
The (brick-between-post) building at 1501 St. Phillip St. was once home to a nightclub, a neighborhood beauty salon and a sweet shop. Tremé resident Meg Lousteau began renovations before passing it on to 1501 CAS, LLC, a company led by Gladys Marigny and Cynthia Sylvester. The building (which was built by free people of color) will be leased to Café Treme, LLC, which will serve coffee, tea, pastries, ice cream and sno-balls.
The PRC has previously held Renovators’ Happy Hour events in various neighborhoods. “We’ve held these events in Mid-City, Uptown, Holy Cross, and Carrollton-all over town.” says Patty Gay.
Future events will be held in Esplanade Ridge, Irish channel and in Central City.
The Bynums hope that other residents consider renovating many of our hidden gems, which, according to Adolph Bynum, not only helps beautify the city, but acknowledges the history of the architecture that is uniquely New Orleans.
“When people come to New Orleans, they want to see the architecture, because there’s nothing like it anywhere in the United States,” he says. “One of the reasons why we should preserve these buildings is because our economic engine in the city is tourism.”
Mrs. Bynum agrees. “Preservation is economic development, when you really think about it.”
For more information on Renovators’ Happy Hour events or additional resources available through the PRC, visit www.prcno.org or contact (504) 636-3399.
This article was originally published in the July 18, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper