Officials are gathering at the old Texaco building on Canal Street Thursday morning to mark its transformation from corporate to residential use. The 17-story tower is now a home for seniors on a low fixed incomes.
The building is now called Marais Apartments. It overlooks renovations and construction at the former Iberville public housing development at Canal and Marais streets.
The $35 million project created 112 one-bedroom apartments set aside for people 62 years old or more, and it’s just about filled.
Josh Collen is vice president of development for HRI Properties, which worked with the Housing Authority of New Orleans to redevelop the building.
“Affordable senior housing in the downtown core is very, very much in need," he said. "Here on Canal Street we have a handicapped accessible streetcar line, near the medical complex. It’s an ideal place for senior housing.”
One of those residents is Marlene Whitsell, a New Orleans native who moved to Houston for work in 1985. But now she’s retired and wanted to be close to her children and grandchildren.
“When I made the decision to come back I started checking for housing," she said. "Housing, transportation and medical care were my priorities.”
And she didn’t want the urban sprawl of Houston.
“I think it’s fun for a lot of us to be in a high-rise," she said. " I’ve talked to a lot of the neighbors and a lot of them haven’t ever been above third or fourth floor. So, yeah, it’s kind of exciting.”
The Marais Apartments project is the first phase of the federal Housing and Urban Development plan to revitalize the Iberville and Tremé neighborhoods. It also calls for realigning streets to open a corridor from the Superdome to the Lafitte Greenway, linking the French Quarter to Mid-City.