article by Danielle Del Sol | Photographs by Liz Jurey
excerpt from the December, 2015 issue of Preservation in Print with permission from author
The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority has awarded nearly $1 million in the past year to property and small business owners on Bayou Road to improve the facade of their building in a historically appropriate way.
The Bayou Road businesses received grants up to $37,000 each and up to 30 hours of technical assistance to renovate their buildings with NORA’s Facade Renew program.
The technical assistance portion of the grant, administered by NORA project partner Tulane City Center, gives owners information on what their building originally looked like, and the context in which it was developed.
The $1 million came from the Louisiana Office of Community development, using post-Katrina Community Development Block Grant funds. The program has inspired business owners who may not have previously realized the value of restoring historic features.
On Bayou Road, one of the oldest commercial corridors in the city — the ridge was a Native American center of trade for many years before European settlers arrived — New Orleans Tribune publisher Beverly McKenna and her family are continuing to improve properties they started buying 35 years ago.
The area is like a small slice of the Caribbean, with vibrantly colored buildings, feral chickens and businesses like the Coco Hut, known for its jerk chicken, and Club Caribbean, the top reggae club in town. McKenna and her husband, landlords to these beloved businesses, are receiving Facade Renew grants to revitalize four of their properties.
Club Caribbean will receive a fresh coat of paint and a new patio area. The other buildings will receive tropical paint jobs and other improvements, as well, at the able hands of contractor Sidney Barthelemy, Jr. of B-Squared LLC.
McKenna, who lives and works within blocks of Bayou Road, said that she and her husband were keen to offer the properties as opportunities for local residents to realize their dream of being small business owners. As such, they didn’t overdevelop the investment properties they acquired. NORA’s grants allow the couple to expedite needed work to the buildings while helping them keep rents affordable.