When the Preservation Resource Center flings open its doors next Saturday for the Great Neighborhood Sellabration, nearly two dozen neighborhood groups will staff booths, trying to convince browsers that their neighborhood is the best place to live.
But if you’re nuts about Jazz Fest, crave an old-fashioned New Orleans neighborhood with racial and economic diversity, want to be centrally located, and like knowing your neighbors by name, then Morgan Clevenger and Ilana Freedman say there’s just one choice that’s still affordable: the Fairgrounds Triangle neighborhood.
The Fairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association formed pre-Katrina and has grown steadily more organized, successfully lobbying for LED streetlights, extended hours at the Stallings Playground pool, and to prevent liquor sales next to the playground.
The neighborhood will be a first-time exhibitor at the 13th Sellabration, and Freedman and Clevenger are primed to demonstrate why buyers who are priced out of some nearby markets are taking a look at homes in their neighborhood, a pie-shaped area bounded by St. Bernard Avenue, North Broad Street, and Gentilly Boulevard/Bayou Road.
Morgan Clevenger is a New Orleans native and the daughter of Upperline Restaurant proprietor JoAnn Clevenger. She has turned leading the neighborhood association into a full-time job, attending dozens of public hearings and forging relationships with city agencies and public officials.
Clevenger moved to the Fairgrounds Triangle in 2007 when she ran across an unbelievable deal.
“I was able to buy two houses and a side lot all at once because they were all on one lot of record,” she said. “Over time I have renovated both houses, and now I live in one and have tenants in the other.”
Compared with Clevenger, Freedman and her husband are newcomers, having moved to New Orleans four three years ago and into an apartment in the Fairgrounds Triangle neighborhood before buying their single shotgun home on N. Broad Street in 2012.
“We had friends in the neighborhood who told us about it and we liked it so much that we bought,” she said. “It’s not just near the Fair Grounds but all the businesses on North Broad and Bayou Road, like the Pagoda Café. We can walk to the bayou and shop at the Whole Foods. We have everything, and it’s still affordable.”
An agent with Gardner Realtors, Freedman says that prices for a single family fixer-upper range from $75 to $95 per square foot; for multi-family homes that require renovation, the range is $60 to $80 per square foot. Houses in move-in condition command up to $150 per square foot, a price that is modest compared with many neighborhoods.
“Many buyers purchase doubles and rent out the other side to help pay their house notes,” she said. “It means we have a growing homeownership percentage but are preserving opportunities for renters, too.”
Of the physical characteristics of the neighborhood that Clevenger and Freedman value the most, architectural diversity tops the list.
“The neighborhood developed mostly from 1880 to 1930, so we have a mix of house types and styles,” said Clevenger, whose properties are stucco raised basement houses. “Our oldest house is an 1832 Acadian cottage that used to face Broad and was moved to Onzaga. We have a contemporary house going up on North Gayoso and D’Abadie and everything in between.”
A walk around the neighborhood with Clevenger and Freedman proves the point.
Shotguns (singles and doubles) in the Eastlake, bracket and Craftsman styles are plentiful, accented by the occasional Mediterranean Revival villa, Storybook cottage, or raised basement house.
Because of how the streets angle into one another, Flatiron-style buildings can be found, one of them embellished with a neon-hued mural of New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians, streetcars and other cultural treasures.
Many homes retain built-in planters, popular in the late 1920s, and some have red terracotta-tiled steps. Original wrought iron railings and screen doors remain in place. Occasionally, a sidewalk garden accents the streetscape beneath the shady umbrella of massive oaks.
Several dozen properties in the neighborhood were vacant and deteriorated just a few years ago, but the neighborhood group made it a priority to do everything it could to ensure that problem properties were repaired and put back into commerce.
“Now we are down to just seven blighted properties and very few of the original number were demolished. Instead, they were purchased and renovated,” Clevenger said. “We have a few property owners who don’t live in the neighborhood and pose a problem, but we know who they are. We’ll keep after them.”
R. Stephanie Bruno is a contributing writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.