“The Franz Building is in an area targeted for revitalization in the Planning District 2 Unified New Orleans Plan. The building is historic and located on a major corridor in Central City. Its renovation will preserve a piece of history of the neighborhood as well as help bring commerce to Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, a street that was once a major commercial area. In addition, Good Work Network’s business incubation services provide another key component of Planning District 2 plans for area revitalization.”
—Councilmember Stacy Head, New Orleans City Council, District B
In 2007, the Good Work Network 1 (GWN), a 501(c)(3) micro-enterprise development organization, purchased the historic Franz Building (Fig. 1) at 2016 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard (O.C. Haley) in New Orleans, Louisiana and will renovate it to house expanded business support and incubation services along with several retail incubator storefronts. Established in 2000, GWN provides training, technical assistance, and management support services to low income and disadvantaged entrepreneurs as well as non-profit organizations in the greater New Orleans area. Located along an historic commercial corridor in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, the restored Franz Building will further GWN’s mission to empower local entrepreneurs, while also achieving critical goals and objectives outlined in the Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) for Planning District 2. 2 UNOP, the community-driven post-Katrina recovery plan adopted by the City and State, identifies economic recovery of the O.C. Haley corridor as a top priority project to spur redevelopment. The subsequent New Orleans Office of Recovery Management 3 plan specifies the O.C. Haley corridor as one of its seventeen Target Recovery Zones (Fig. 2). Therefore, this specific project both will impact and be impacted by such important recovery and rebuilding initiatives.
Under the direction of Louisiana licensed architect and Washington University in St. Louis adjunct lecturer Derek James Hoeferlin, 10 senior undergraduate architecture students from the College of Architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts have designed a thorough conceptual and subsequent constructible design strategy for the Franz Building. As part of the CITYbuild Consortium of Schools, a collaborative group of Universities collectively working in post-Katrina New Orleans, this project is only one of many in an ongoing series of design studios led by Hoeferlin that furthers Washington University’s commitment to the post-Katrina, New Orleans recovery and rebuilding. The simple pedagogical approach for Hoeferlin is to engage architecture and urban design students, at multiple scales, directly in the community by working with community groups and professionals on real projects not typically within the bubble of architectural education. Hoeferlin’s studio projects range in scale from the micro of actualized design-build projects for a community garden, to the macro of large-scale integrated water management scenarios, to this Franz Building design that is at the typical architectural scale for architecture students. In addition, as part of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s ongoing and extensive work in New Orleans, two graduate students led by senior lecturer Karl Seidman in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning worked with GWN to develop an accompanying financial analysis to supplement and legitimize the following exhibited design strategy for the Franz Building. The joint multi-disciplinary proposal of Washington University and MIT was entered in the 2008 JP Morgan Chase Community Development Competition. The entry placed first (Fig. 3) and the $25,000 prize money has gone directly to GWN as seed money to help implement the project. 4
Working in networked collaboration, the three-part challenge is to: 1) help revitalize an historic corridor via a sustainable adaptive re-use to an historic structure that will in turn 2) assist GWN in furthering its mission to develop entrepreneurs within the Central City neighborhood in addition to 3) serving local residents with products that are indigenous, culturally relevant, and meet their needs. The focus of the following piece primarily is the first point.
The forthright position of the following piece strongly advocates for adaptive re-uses and environmentally sensitive renovations of the plethora of existing stable historic and/or viable structures that currently exist in the post-Katrina context of New Orleans. Many of these structures stand in areas of low risk for flooding by being situated above sea level, and are anxiously awaiting sustainable redevelopment projects.
The Franz Building and the historic corridor O.C. Haley of which the building is a part serve as precedent for such a redevelopment strategy within an area of low risk (O.C. Haley did not flood as a result of Hurricane Katrina).