An Ode To Architecture

By Grayson Kanter

The Carrollton Courthouse in Uptown New Orleans which resides on 701 South Carrollton Avenue has stood tall –  and now, newly remodeled – for the past 168 years. For many years the building acted as a courthouse and center of governance for Jefferson Parish but was eventually annexed and turned into a school. After standing vacant for a few years, the National Trust for Historic Presentation declared the space a landmark, as it would be considered one of the nation’s top eleven endangered locations. After an auction in 2017, the property was purchased by Carl Mittendorf from Houston, for approximately 4.7 million dollars. Mittendorf is very well known in the senior-living community, as he has personally been involved in many new building projects providing housing for the elderly. 

Patrick Schindler, the President and Co-founder of  Felicity Property Co, is one of the few real estate and development firms in the city committed to “historic preservation and urban development” (according to their website). Not only is the firm well known for its beautifully crafted modern residential units across the city, but it also happens to be in charge of the remodel and lease on The Carrollton. Patrick had known Mittendorf personally through previous business and actually encouraged him to purchase the property. Patrick said that Mittendorf was in search of a property in New Orleans that was “a block long” or longer for his next project – a rarity so unlikely to get your hands on that Patrick described it as a “unicorn.” However, within a few months, the school board put the property up for auction, and Patrick promptly reached back out to Carl. The two men walked away with the highest bid and set forth plans to turn the former government building and place of education into a home and rehabilitation center for the elderly. 

Unfortunately, following the purchase of the property, Carl and Patrick faced what he described as “entitlement issues” when it came to permits regarding the plans for remodeling as well as the facility purpose as well. Patrick explained how difficult it was to get going on the project because the school board as well as the city had placed “incumbrances” on each other. This essentially delayed the process of permit approval given that the intentions of the building’s purpose had not been legally made clear. However, following a few conversations with city officials and the onboarding of a new capital partner, Patrick was asked to personally lead the project with his team. 

In the early stages of construction, Patrick brought on local architect David Curtis to consult, a man whose talents were highly regarded. “He draws the most buildable set of plans. It’s really an amazing thing to say. I mean you can be a good architect but your details aren’t buildable. This guy knows what he’s doing.” For a project this big, having a large yet close-knit, and above all, functioning team, is integral to its success. Whether it be “architects, structural engineers, project managers, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, interior designers, and various other kinds of specialists,” Patrick aimed to work closely with each one. 

Having at least 150 people on the site working each day, it is definitely a team project. Even after the build is finished, Patrick’s team at Felicity will continue to work with the property. “My team is really real estate people. We develop, we property manage, and we lease. We’re involved through all of it – building and organizing a team, organizing the financial side. There are so many people that come together.” Not only is it their biggest project, but also the most time-consuming – seeing as it is a facility that will be running twenty-four-seven, with at least 80 employees working at all times. 

Aside from the time Patrick spent ensuring he was creating a solid team for the building, he also advocated for the priority of preservation. As the project was facing pressure not only from the city but also from historians, Patrick aimed to “marry the old with the new.” Given that the building was constructed by legendary architect Henry Howard, it was especially important to preserve its original creative markers, such as its classic ionic columns.

 That marriage phrase Patrick used to describe the remodel can also be emulated through the people that will soon inhabit the space. “There will be people – 60, 70, 80, 90 years old- that are moving into this building with an amazing history, and the story of their life. It’s really cool that this is the way it’s being repurposed.” Even down to the decor, Patrick’s team has ensured that the art on the walls is representative of the city and its past, given that each piece selected was created by the hands of local artists. 

The day after I had the chance to speak with Patrick he was kind enough to invite me to the grand opening of The Carrollton. Out front there was a live band of people playing cheerful music, and inside were rooms filled with people celebrating: both those that were a part of the project, as well as families who hope to place their loved ones in the facility. I myself got the opportunity to tour the first and second floors, featuring quaint full-furnished one-bedroom apartments, as well as the brand-new center for physical therapy.

After almost 7 years since the property was purchased, The Carrollton is projected to welcome its new residents in March of 2023.