Image credit: Advocate Staff Photo by Eliot Kamenitz, July 29, 2015.
Click here to watch the full video of the public forum: What's the Future of Carrollton Courthouse. Thank you to Craig Kraemer for filming the forum for us.
School Board handout for the forum: The Orleans Parish School Board Immovable Property: Sales, Leases, and Other Permissable Transactions
Results of the Neighborhood Forum on the Re-use of Carrollton Courthouse:
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Presented by Louisiana Landmarks Society and
to the Orleans Parish School Board
Over one hundred residents attended a neighborhood forum on the future of Carrollton Courthouse sponsored by Louisiana Landmarks Society and SaveCarrolltonCourthouse.com.
We thank Stan Smith and Woody Koppel of the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), community member Drew Ward, architect Peter Trapolin, and Krystal Cox of the Louisiana Division of Historic Preservation for setting the stage for the discussion, providing information on the building's history, status and conditions of potential sale, reuse and tax credits.
Designed by Irish-born architect Henry Howard, the Carrollton Courthouse was constructed in 1855 when Carrollton was the seat of government for Jefferson Parish. Howard, known for designing the cast iron galleries on the Pontalba buildings, would go on to produce many Greek Revival and Italianate structures, including Belle Grove and Nottaway Plantations. From the beginning, the building was conceived as place for public gatherings, not only a conventional courthouse.
The Role of Federal and State Tax Credits for any Re-Use
Both the State of Louisiana and the federal government offer tax credit programs for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. The state income tax credit is for 25 percent and the federal income tax credit is for 20 percent of the cost of the rehabilitation as reviewed and approved by the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service (which oversees the federal program). The credits may be sold to a third party.
Protecting the Building through a Facade Easement
Among the concerns of Louisiana Landmarks Society is the absence of any conditions in the potential sales documents for a "facade easement," which is a tax deductible donation--and covenants which could guarantee that the building's historic character would be protected in perpetuity. Members of the School Board confirmed that they would explore such covenants. Louisiana Landmarks Society offered their assistance in developing these protections.
The Laws and Regulations Governing the Sale, Lease, Exchange or Cooperative Endeavor Agreements regarding Public Property
Chief financial officer Stan Smith and school board member Woody Koppel briefed the group on the types of transactions into which the OPSB is legally authorized to enter involving immovable property. These include sales, leases, exchanges and cooperative endeavor agreements. They noted that "gratuitously donating property" is not legally permissible. Sales may happen through a public auction or a competitive bid process. Leases are subject to a public bid process and to the highest bidder meeting OPSB-established conditions. Lease proposals can be initiated by a prospective lessee or by the OPSB. Exchanges may be made without public advertisement or public bids or auctions if the OPSB receives property at least equivalent in value to the property being exchanged. Finally, OPSB may engage in a non-gratuitous cooperative endeavor agreement if, among other conditions, the OPSB has an expectation of receiving at least equivalent value in exchange for transfer/use of the property.
"Limited Only by Our Imagination" - The Public Shares Its Ideas and Concerns about the Building
The following list is compiled from the comments made by the public suggesting future uses and conditions for the building:
- Cultural center or community center open to the public.
- Reception hall to provide operating income and recoup costs.
- Use for the courthouse for public functions and the ancillary buildings for professional offices.
- Tying the building's use to the history of Carrollton.
- Preventing the wholesale gutting of the building with only a shell remaining.
- A museum.
- Continued maintenance and security of the building and treating it for termites.
- The building, created in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson's designs, should be held in the public trust with imaginative programming, that is seasonal and income producing.
- It would be a real set-back to lose the building. The School Board does not need another black eye having let its modernist schools be demolished despite local, national and international opposition. We can redeem ourselves as a community if we seize this special opportunity.
- Give the building to a consortium for $1.00.
- The building is exceptional. It is a symbol for the whole city.
- Utilize Tulane preservation and architecture students to study the building and offer use and design solutions for the building and grounds.
- Create a true public-private partnership.
- Use the building as a community center – that is what it was built for. Renovation will not be extensive to return it to its original room configuration, which has survived as conceived.
- Restore the porticos on the right and left of the front portico.
- Work with the French Consul General to establish an extension of the Sorbonne in New Orleans at the Carrollton Courthouse.
- Use the building to help consolidate the city's park systems.
- Public space is very important – we need green space to walk.
- This property is very important to tourism. All passengers on the streetcar pass right by this building. If tourism needs it, tourism needs to pay for it. We must ask them for help in paying for it.
- Put the city archives there and create some small museum.
- Approach congressional representatives to support a museum for the Corps of Engineers.
- Create a special taxing district.
- Use part of the building as a museum and the other parts as a library and include a park.
- The ancillary buildings can come down and a park created there.
- Rent commercial spaces, such as a café perhaps, along with a library.
- A museum dedicated to music, which would be a destination for tourists riding the St. Charles streetcar.
- A regional branch of the public library, replacing the Nix Branch, which could be sold.
- Notarial archives.