When its doors first opened in 1929, the American National Bank building on Carondelet Street joined a concentration of large and small banks in the financial heart of the Central Business District (CBD). Now, after a long and quiet hiatus, this vintage, roaring ‘20s-era skyscraper is being prepped to reopen as a key component in a potential new identity for the CBD as a bustling hub of residences and retailers.
Shuttered and empty for years, the 24-story American National Bank building is being restored and redeveloped as a 190-unit, mixed-income apartment complex. Developers plan to rent 40 percent of the units at subsidized rates while 60 percent will be market rate, and they will reserve 9,800 square feet of the former banking lobby and mezzanine for retail and other commercial uses. 

NEWS BEAT: Skyscraper rises to the occasionThe $26.5 million project was announced by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency and the state Office of Community Development, which helped arrange a tax credit financing deal with developer Reliance-Carondelet Associates One of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“We are especially enthusiastic about this particular development because it’s accomplishing so much, from preserving a historic building to providing low income families a chance to live right in the heart of New Orleans and close to all of the city’s amenities,” says Calvin Parker, rental program manager for the state’s Office of Community Development. 

Repairing and creating new housing has been a big issue in the region’s hurricane recovery, but it is also at the heart of broad, strategic plans to reinvigorate downtown New Orleans. Officials with the Downtown Development District and other advocates for the area believe a critical mass of residences in the downtown area will attract higher quality retail establishments and other private investments to improve the area and that existing historic buildings provide the best solution for redevelopment. Earlier this year, work resumed on one of the highest-profile examples of such conversions, with the former Krauss department store now being renovated to create more than 230 apartments and condominiums. 

The American National Bank building itself is architecturally significant. Topped with an ornate observation tower and lined with Deco-style designs, the skyscraper was designed by architect Moise Goldstein. The building was his largest project and was also one of the first large buildings in Louisiana to boast an air conditioning system. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. – Ian McNulty