Old Treme jail to become bed-and-breakfast _lowres

Photo provided by the UptownMessenger/Jean-Paul Villere -- A bed and breakfast is proposed for the old jail on St. Phillip Street

A historic jail in Treme could be welcoming a whole different type of customer soon.

With approval from the New Orleans City Council, the building’s owners have permission to convert the 6,291-square-foot Queen Anne-style structure at 2522 St. Philip St. into a nine-room bed-and-breakfast. They plan on calling it the “Inn at the Old Police Jail.”

“The point is to bring back the neighborhood’s heritage and save something from falling down, which is where

the building was headed,” said Liz Canache, who owns the building with her husband, Raul.

The proposal sailed through the council with a unanimous vote Thursday, though it took some bureaucratic wrangling to get to that point.

The first time the owners brought their proposal to the City Planning Commission, they were told they could not get a permit for the conversion because it would violate city zoning law. Under the law, the commission’s staff said, they could only put a bed-and-breakfast into a structure that had already been a single-family or two-family home.

Still, city officials liked the idea of saving a piece of historic architecture that has fallen into disrepair. So the Planning Commission voted last month to ask the City Council to tweak the zoning ordinance.

The council on Thursday approved new language in the ordinance allowing a bed-and-breakfast in “a former institutional or commercial structure that is easily converted into a single-family structure.”

The Canaches, who plan to live on the top floor, bought the building for $175,000 during an auction of surplus city-owned property in December, and they have seen an outpouring of support for their plans.

The Louisiana Landmarks Society lauded the idea of a renovation, having listed the old police jail on the society’s 2010 list of New Orleans’ nine most endangered properties.

Built in 1902, the building has not been used as a jail or police station since at least 1951.

In a statement last year, City Councilman Jared Brossett, who spearheaded the zoning change, said, “This project will take a historic property and bring it back into commerce, providing a high-quality and appropriately located bed-and-breakfast for visitors to our city.”