HDLC Approves NOPSI Building Conversion

14 January 2016

HDLC has approved plans to convert two former NOPSI buildings on Baronne street into a luxury hotel.

13 January 2016

Historic District Landmarks Commission approves NOPSI Building conversion

By: Robin Shannon, Managing Editor January 13, 2016 0

Plans to convert a pair of Baronne Street buildings that once housed operations for the city’s utility company into a luxury hotel have garnered the support of the Historic District Landmarks Commission.

The commission on Wednesday voted in favor of a proposal from Connecticut-based Building and Land Technology to renovate the former NOPSI Building at 317 Baronne St., along with an adjacent two-story brick building on the corner of Union Street and O’Keefe Avenue, as part of a $30.3 million hotel development. The project includes construction of a rooftop penthouse addition that would sit atop the vacant eight-story office building, as well as alterations to the façade of the adjacent brick building, known as the Dryades building, which would add a service entrance.

The committee voted to approve the penthouse addition despite opposition from its Architectural Review committee. HDLC staff typically discourages such additions to buildings of historic significance.

During the meeting, Paul Flower, president and CEO of Woodward Design+Build, the designers and builders on the project, argued that the addition would allow space for 14 additional rooms, bringing the total to 217. It would also accommodate a presidential suite and other amenities that would qualify the development as a 4-and-a-half-star hotel. He said the addition is set back 14 feet from the street and not visible from Union or Baronne Streets.

“These additional rooms make the project feasible for development,” Flower said. “The owners have all the financing in place and are ready to move forward with the project upon approval.”

While the commission seemed to be accepting of the penthouse, some on the board raised questions about the façade changes to the Dryades building and how it would impact its symmetry.

“To me, this issue has more impact than the penthouse,” said Commissioner Wayne Troyer. “It’s the more visible part of the building. It’s what the public will see every day.”

Project architect Erik Wismar said the additional door, which would be cut into one of two matching arched window openings in the building, is needed as a service or kitchen entrance for the ballroom area that would occupy the Dryades building. He said the existing door on that side of the building would be used as an alternate back entrance for the ballroom.

The commission voted 3-2 in favor of the renovation and addition, with Troyer and Commissioner Kevin Kelly voting against the changes.

Along with the ballroom space, the hotel would also include meeting rooms, a bar and restaurant, a rooftop pool and a landscaped courtyard on the ground level. A reservoir below the courtyard would be used for storm water retention.
The project was granted a demolition permit in August. Flower told the commission that Woodward hopes to secure a permit within the next couple of months to allow construction to begin.

Building and Land Technology of Stamford, Connecticut bought the property in February for $11.6 million. The project would be the company’s first development in New Orleans.

The NOPSI Building was erected in 1927 under the direction of design firm Favrot and Livaudais. The architectural firm was responsible for numerous historic projects in Louisiana, including the Hibernia Bank Building. The building was declared a historic landmark in 2011.

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