When Tom Paz was transferred to New Orleans with his wife, Katie, and toddler son, Collin, the move was a long-awaited homecoming.
Tom, an active duty Marine Sciences Technician in the Coast Guard, grew up in the Irish Channel, so he was returning to his roots and his parents, Colleen and Greg Brown.
The homecoming was joyful, at least until Tom and Katie started searching for a home to call their own.
“I couldn’t believe the prices Uptown!” said Tom, who arrived with his family in the summer of 2015. “There was no way that we could afford to buy a house in my old neighborhood with a Coast Guard housing allowance, even with a VA loan.”
So, while Tom was away on a training assignment for 10 weeks, Katie started exploring other possibilities and realized their money would go much farther in a different area of the city.
When a realtor showed her a new Craftsman-style house in Gentilly built by Project Home Again, she was sold.
“I really liked the house, and, since Tom couldn’t be here, I used Facetime on my iPhone to walk him through it,” she said. “I told him, ‘We’re buying this house,’ and we did.”
Although the Paz family had not originally considered Gentilly, they are now avid fans of the area and want others to know about the value it offers.
So do the organizers of tomorrow’s Gentilly Parade of Homes, a consortium of nonprofit and for-profit developers intent on introducing homebuyers to Gentilly’s many neighborhoods and to its housing stock.
A total of 23 new homes, available for purchase, will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The homes range in price from $165,000 to $465,000 and include everything from modest starter homes to high-end residences.
Maps will be available at tour headquarters, 1324 Riviera Ave.
Before the Paz family was transferred to New Orleans, they were stationed in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where Collin was born.
“We liked it a lot in Massachusetts, but we really wanted to get home to my family,” said Tom. “It’s also great that my father is handy — he can fix or build anything.”
The couple’s home on St. Anthony Avenue, near Robert E. Lee Boulevard, is raised about 8 feet off the ground and offers 1,500 square feet of living area.
Three bedrooms, two baths and a laundry occupy a side wing of the house, with the den, kitchen and dining area situated in the main wing.
“We really like that the public and private areas of the house are separate,” said Katie. “The house was new, so we didn’t really have to do anything to it when we moved in, but we painted and added a few things here and there.”
One of the additions is the tall wooden fence that surrounds the home’s expansive rear yard.
“I provided the labor, and my father basically stood there and told me what to do,” Tom joked. Now that the yard is fenced, Tom and Maddie, the family’s Australian Shepherd-Lab mix, get a workout playing Frisbee in its confines.
Another project, this one initiated by Katie, was to install wood wainscoting in the dining area to give it a slightly more formal feel.
“I like to find do-it-yourself projects in magazines and try them out,” said Katie, who is responsible for much of the artwork in the house. She and Tom also handcrafted the headboard in their bedroom.
One scheme that works well in the decor is the combination of old and new.
“I like old houses but felt like it made better sense to buy a new one since we are first-time homebuyers,” said Katie. “We didn’t want the house to feel too new, so we added the mantel in the den and the shutters behind the nightstands in our bedroom.” Both pieces of architectural salvage came from the Brown family’s home Uptown on Gen. Pershing Street.
“Katie really is good at design, and I tell her all the time she should go into business,” said Tom.
“Sometimes I moan and groan and think, ‘Oh no, not another project,’ but when it’s all done, it always looks great.”