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Nostalgia: From Boom to Building

1555 Poydras St. remains a thriving economic force

The oil boom of the late 1970s and early ’80s changed the New Orleans skyline drastically when some of the city’s tallest buildings were constructed. With the opening of the Superdome in ’75, the corridor along Poydras Street became a target for construction, transforming it from a dilapidated area into a bustling land of high-rises.

One of those buildings was the Exxon Building, now known as 1555 Poydras St. Designed by Sikes, Jennings and Kelly of Houston, the 22-story, 262-foot-tall skyscraper was finished in 1982, and features sawtooth bay windows, bands of reflective glass and 467,671 square feet of rentable space. The building’s first major tenant was the Exxon Corporation.

But the oil bust that soon followed in the 1980s caused chaos, and New Orleans entered a severe economic depression.

In ’90, the mortgage debt on 1555 Poydras St. was over $30 million, and payments on it had ceased. Sales and bargaining saved the building.

During the early 1990s, Exxon, still reeling from the oil bust, began consolidating their offices and gave up some of their space in the building, but other businesses (including the Louisiana Supreme Court) came in, and occupancy stayed around 80 to 90 percent through the ’90s. Things began to look up and, in 2002, 1555 Poydras St. won an international real estate award for its management and operations.

 In 2003 the building faced another crisis when Exxon finally closed its New Orleans operations; however, within 6 months, the Internal Revenue Service moved in, followed in ’04 by Tulane University’s leasing of 180,000-square-feet (the largest Class A lease in the CBD in 10 years). Tulane remains the main occupant of the building.

After Hurricane Katrina the building also housed the Road Home offices and to this day is a thriving economic force in downtown New Orleans.

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