Demolishing C.J. Peete

In the spring of 2019, a team of students researching within the "Architecture and Engineering Services" initiative sought to better understand the major players, financing, and timelines of specific architectural projects that were significantly affected by Hurricane Katrina. And while many questions were answered, many more remain. The below research, by Eddy Almonte (MUP '19), takes a close look at the demolition of public housing New Orleans through the lens of the C.J. Peete Houses.

 



CONTEXT

Before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in 2005, the privatization of public housing was already underway. Since 1996, HOPE VI grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development were used by developers and organizations to demolish and replace public housing with mixed-income housing in order to redevelop entire neighborhoods.1 The Housing Authority of New Orleans has been in federal receivership since 2002, granting HUD direct control over New Orleans' public housing stock.2 After Katrina, the rate of demolition for viable and structurally sound public housing in New Orleans increased under the guise of disaster recovery.3 C.J. Peete Houses, also known as Magnolia Houses, was one of the Big Four public housing developments that were slated for complete demolition after Katrina.4 Since 1998, C.J. Peete had been in the process of being emptied and partially demolished, with only 144 people living there at the time of the storm. [citation] In spite of community resistance, C.J. Peete was fully demolished and redeveloped as Harmony Oaks beginning in late 2008.5 At its height, C.J. Peete operated 1403 public housing units. Today, only 143 units on site are designated as public housing.6

  

KEY PLAYERS

Developer: Central City Partners:

  • McCormack Baron Salazar — for-profit real estate developer that managed the transition from C.J. Peete public housing to the HOPE VI Mixed-Income/Choice Neighborhood Harmony Oaks development.7 Responsible for property and asset management for Harmony Oaks. Co-founder Richard Baron was on the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing that helped create HOPE VI, therefore MBS has been heavily involved with HUD's mixed-finance public housing programs since 1994, redeveloping public housing sites throughout the country.8  ​​​​
  • New Orleans Neighborhood Development Corporation (NONDC) — community development corporation that received the $20 million HOPE VI grant to develop the 50 off-site homeownership units for Harmony Oaks.9 No former residents of C.J. Peete were eligible for the homeownership units.10
  • KAI Design Build — architecture, engineering, and construction firm responsible for designing the new units for Harmony Oaks redevelopment; including construction services and MEP (mechanical, engineering, and plumbing) services.11

Urban Strategies Inc. — A nonprofit corporation and subsidiary of McCormack Baron Salazar responsible for coordinating community and social services at Harmony Oaks.12 Received funding from private foundations such as the Annie E. Casey and Ford Foundations to administer services.13

New Orleans Housing Authority (HANO) — Went under receivership with the federal government in 2002. HUD grants were directly distributed to HANO for the HOPE VI Demolition and Revitalization program. 

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) — Administered federal grants to HANO through HOPE VI, Choice Neighborhood Implementation Program and Community Development Block Grants.

  • Alphonso Jackson — HUD Secretary that approved the $100 million in CDBG for public housing revitalization. 
  • HUD Receivers — notably David Gilmore of Gilmore Kean LLC 

 

FUNDING

Federal Grants through HUD:
$3 million
HOPE VI Demolition Grant (1998)14
$20 million HOPE VI Revitalization Grant (2007)15
$27 million in Community Development Block Grants16 through the city's already-acquired $178 million worth of tax credits and CDBG funding17

Private Investments:
$56 million
from Goldman-Sachs Urban Reinvestment Group through the Gulf Opportunity Zone Program18
$850,000 in Urban Strategies Inc. funding from the Annie E. Casey and Ford Foundations19

 

SPENDING

$20 million for 50 offsite homeownership units at Harmony Oaks (NONDC)20
$178 million budget by McCormack Baron Salazar21 vs. $129 million budget by HANO RFQ ($28 million soft costs:22 $11,108,423.80 Developer's fee (including $3,263,371 Architect's fee for design); $66 million for construction hard costs23)

 

"A&E SERVICES"

There is an often significant discrepancy between what government contracting officials label as "A&E" (Architecture & Engineering) and what students and professionals from the field would include in that category. The timeline below seeks to highlight both perspectives.

  • 14.866 Demolition and Revitalization of Severely Distressed Public Housing (HUD)

Other, non-coded "A&E Services" are shown in italics

 

TIMELINE

1998
Demolition Grant
Several C.J. Peete buildings are demolished under a HOPE VI Demolition Grant of $3 million. C.J. Peete returns to the original Magnolia size.24

1998 and 2003 aerial

Left: C.J. Peete site in 1998; Right: C.J. Peete site in 2003, following demolition of several buildings (Google Earth)

Early 2002
Bush administration breaks the accord that Mayor Morial had crafted with a cooperative Clinton White House to maintain local control over HANO and imposed a series of HUD-appointed administrators to run the agency.25

August 2005
Hurricane Katrina floods most public housing developments in the city. No structural damage was detected after MIT architecture professor John Fernandez inspected the buildings in 2006.26

2006
HANO federal receiver William Thorson writes in an email that the public housing repair costs per unit seemed low, and instructed his staff to "take photos of the worst of the worst."27

February 2006
HUD advises the US Senate that it plans to reopen a quadrant of B.W. Cooper, make repairs at C.J. Peete, and reoccupy units at Iberville. 

June 2006
Without notice to residents, HUD announces it will demolish more than 5,000 public housing apartments in St. Bernard, C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, and Lafitte.28

June 2007
Inspection
Anderson v. Jackson filed, a class action lawsuit on behalf of displaced New Orleans public housing residents that claims violations of the 1937 Housing Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.29

  • John Fernandez, Associate Professor of Architecture at MIT, inspects 140 units in four public housing projects: Lafitte, C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, and St. Bernard around October 16-20, 2006. Fernandez was commissioned by the Plaintiff, Yolanda Anderson, et al., in the case of Anderson et al. v. Jackson, et al. Fernandez testified in court that he found "no structural or nonstructural damage... that would reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition... Justification for demolition on the grounds that these buildings can no longer function as safe and humane housing for the people of New Orleans are not credible."30


August 17, 2006
CDBG
HUD approves $100 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for the purpose of restoring public housing units. Alphonso Jackson stated that HUD intended the dollars to "restore these public housing units on at least a one-to-one basis."31

December 23, 2007
After a heated six-hour meeting, the New Orleans City Council votes unanimously to approve the demolition of the "Big Four" public housing developments.32

2008
HANO Receiver is Karen Cato-Turner.33

March 2008
Revitalization Grant
C.J. Peete redevelopment receives a federal HOPE VI Revitalization grant totaling $20 million.34

December 2008—January 2009 
Demolition
C.J. Peete is demolished. The new HUD Secretary Steve Preston flies into New Orleans for the groundbreaking.35

2006 and 2009 aerial

Left: C.J. Peete site in 2006, following Hurricane Katrina; Right: C.J. Peete site in 2009, following demolition of all buildings (Google Earth)

August 21, 2009
Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity Field Hearing on “The Status of the ‘Big Four’ Four Years After Hurricane Katrina.”

Late 2009
Technical Assistance and/or Professional Services Contract
David Gilmore of GILMORE KEAN LLC appointed receiver of HANO (still under HUD receivership) with an initial 9-month, no-bid, $2 million contract, followed by another $8 million contract.36 

2011
Harmony Oaks, formerly C.J. Peete/Magnolia, opens. 

2011 aerial

Above: C.J. Peete site in 2011, at the opening of Harmony Oaks (Google Earth)

March 2012
Developers (JCH Development, Stirling Properties, and Central City Partners) purchase the leftover land from the CJ Peete site for $900,000 to develop Magnolia Marketplace. By 2013, the New Orleans City Council creates a special economic development district for Magnolia Marketplace, allowing the city council to become the legal governing authority for the marketplace. The city council approves a 1-cent sales tax to finance $2.3 million in bonds for construction, while $15 million in first mortgage debt and $5.5 million in developer equity cover other funds.37

June 30, 2014
HANO returns to local control.38

 

NOTES

 

  • 1. US Department of Housing and Urban Development, HOPE VI Demolition Grants, FY 1996-2003.
  • 2. "HUD Archives: HUD Returns Housing Authority of New Orleans to Local Control," https://archives.hud.gov/news/2014/pr14-058.cfm.
  • 3. Kevin Fox Gotham and Miriam Greenberg, Crisis Cities: Disaster and Redevelopment in New York and New Orleans (Oxford University Press, 2014), 10.
  • 4. Gwen Filosa, "Brick Housing Biting the Dust; New Homes Planned for Poor, HUD Says," The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, LA, November 3, 2005.
  • 5. Katy Reckdahl, "The Long Road from C.J. Peete to Harmony Oaks," Shelterforce, October 14, 2013.
  • 6. http://www.hano.org/communities.aspx.
  • 7. "McCormack Baron Salazar | Harmony Oaks," http://www.mccormackbaron.com/community-profiles/harmony-oaks.
  • 8. National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing, "The Final Report of the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing" (Washington, DC: US Department of Housing and Urban Development, August 1992).
  • 9. Katy Reckdahl, "Former C.J. Peete Site in New Orleans Ready for Homes," nola.com - The Times-Picayune, June 24, 2009.
  • 10. Katy Reckdahl, "The Long Road from C.J. Peete to Harmony Oaks" (The National Housing Institute, 2013), 15.
  • 11. "Harmony Oaks HOPE VI | KAI Design & Build."
  • 12. Reckdahl, "The Long Road from C.J. Peete to Harmony Oaks," October 14, 2013.
  • 13. Reckdahl, 5.
  • 14. US Department of Housing and Urban Development, HOPE VI Demolition Grants, FY 1996-2003.
  • 15. US Department of Housing and Urban Development, HOPE VI Revitalization Grants.
  • 16. Housing Authority of New Orleans, "C.J. Peete Development Request for proposals," n.d., 56.
  • 17. Colley Charpentier, "HANO to Apply for Rebuilding Grants," nola.com - The Times-Picayune, October 17, 2007
  • 18. Reckdahl, 17.
  • 19. Reckdahl, 5.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Doug Maccash, “Harmony Oaks Apartments, at a Glance,” nola.com - The Times-Picayune, February 13, 2011, https://www.nola.com/politics/2011/02/harmony_oaks_apartments_at_a_g.html.
  • 22. Housing Authority of New Orleans, “C.J. Peete Development Request for Proposals,” 56.
  • 23. Housing Authority of New Orleans, 56.
  • 24. US Department of Housing and Urban Development, HOPE VI Demolition Grants, FY 1996-2003.
  • 25. John Arena, Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 151.
  • 26. Nicolai Ouroussoff, "Housing in New Orleans - Notebook," New York Times, February 22, 2007.
  • 27. Reckdahl, "The Long Road from C.J. Peete to Harmony Oaks," 2013, 6.
  • 28. Gwen Filosa, “Demolition Approved for New Orleans’ Public Housing,” nola.com - The Times-Picayune, September 21, 2007, http://blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/09/demolition_approved_for_new_or.html.
  • 29. US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Anderson v. Jackson (UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA 2009).
  • 30. Lawrence J. Vale, After the Projects: Public Housing Redevelopment and the Governance of the Poorest Americans (Oxford University Press, 2018), 157.
  • 31. Saul Ramirez, Jr., “Statement of Saul N. Ramirez, Jr., Executive Director, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials” (National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, June 4, 2008), 2.
  • 32. Richard Webster, “New Orleans Public Housing Remade after Katrina. Is It Working?,” nola.com - The Times-Picayune, August 20, 2015, https://www.nola.com/katrina/2015/08/new_orleans_public_housing_dem.html.
  • 33. Gwen Filosa, “New HUD Chief Says New Orleans Public Housing Is Back on Track,” nola.com - The Times-Picayune, June 30, 2008, https://www.nola.com/news/2008/06/new_hud_chief_says_new_orleans_2.html.
  • 34. Reckdahl, “Former C.J. Peete Site in New Orleans Ready for Homes.”
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Katy Reckdahl, “Public Housing Turnaround Expert Chosen to Lead New Orleans Housing Authority,” nola.com - The Times-Picayune, October 10, 2009, https://www.nola.com/politics/2009/10/new_hano_chief_david_gilmore_k.html.
  • 37. Richard Webster, “New Orleans City Council Committee Recommends Special Sales Tax to Support Planned Magnolia Marketplace,” nola.com - The Times-Picayune, October 9, 2013, https://www.nola.com/politics/2013/10/new_orleans_city_council_commi_5.html.
  • 38. Richard Webster, “Mayor Landrieu, HUD Secretary Donovan Sign HANO Back to Local Control,” nola.com - The Times-Picayune, May 29, 2014, https://www.nola.com/politics/2014/05/mayor_landrieu_hud_secretary_d.html.
Magnolia Project at construction and site plan (1941) (Source: Louisiana National Historic Register)

Magnolia Project at construction and site plan (1941) (Louisiana National Historic Register)

Magnolia Project, Courtyard. (Source: Louisiana National Historic Register)

Magnolia Project, Courtyard (Louisiana National Historic Register)

Site Plan  (Source: Louisiana National Historic Register)

Site Plan (Louisiana National Historic Register)

C.J. Peete after Hurricane Katrina (Source: Wikipedia Commons, Infrogmation)

C.J. Peete after Hurricane Katrina (Wikipedia Commons, Infrogmation)

C.J. Peete after Hurricane Katrina (Source: Wikipedia Commons, Infrogmation)

C.J. Peete after Hurricane Katrina (Wikipedia Commons, Infrogmation)

Harmony Oaks developed by MBS (Source: McCormack Baron Management)

Harmony Oaks developed by MBS (McCormack Baron Management)

Harmony Oaks developed by MBS (Source: McCormack Baron Management)

Harmony Oaks developed by MBS (McCormack Baron Management)

Harmony Oaks developed by MBS (Source: McCormack Baron Management)

Harmony Oaks developed by MBS (McCormack Baron Management)

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