Although much more attention has gone to the construction of a new prison across the highway, a local nonprofit is hopeful that its new office building, now under construction, might serve as a beacon for residents and commuters entering the city.
The four-story building going up alongside the Pontchartrain Expressway by the South Broad Street overpass will house Pontchartrain Housing Corp. I, a nonprofit organization that owns and operates affordable housing in the New Orleans area. The nonprofit is relocating to the Howard Avenue address from Causeway Boulevard in Metairie.
The site once housed Blumenthal Print Works Inc., a textile company that folded in 2009 after a federal bankruptcy judge ordered its liquidation. The company specialized in mattress ticking and embroidered upholstery.
The nonprofit originally had hoped to refurbish the Blumenthal building, but issues with its flood elevation meant it had to be demolished, said Ron Yager, general manager of WLAE-TV and chief operating officer of Willwoods Community, the nonprofit’s parent organization. The old building was torn down in 2012.
The front half of the new $12 million, 37,000-square-foot space will contain offices for 40 to 50 people. The back half will be used to store refrigerators, stoves and other appliances and equipment for the properties the nonprofit manages.
Pontchartrain Housing runs nine properties with nearly 1,000 units in New Orleans, Metairie, LaPlace, Gretna and St. Rose. The nonprofit is affiliated with the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
The new building is being financed largely with money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Yager said. Instead of rebuilding in New Orleans East, where the agency’s properties were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, the nonprofit decided to build at the Howard Avenue site, an alternate plan allowed by the federal government.
Yager said the building’s architect, Ron Blitch, suggested the idea of angling the structure to face cars coming into the city on the expressway.
“We agreed it would be nice to have this building face you as you enter the city,” Yager said. Pontchartrain Housing is hoping the building, which also will be used to host meetings and community events, will raise the agency’s local profile.
Yager said Pontchartrain Housing is in “expansion mode,” with plans to add more properties to its portfolio.
The office building is expected to be completed by the end of the year.