Many cities built early in the colonization of North America are full of historic buildings, and New Orleans is no exception. In fact, New Orleans has a thriving tourism industry in part because of the historical characteristics so carefully protected in historical buildings and specific neighborhoods.
Centuries-old buildings with facades of vintage materials have an aesthetic that even the most careful reproduction cannot match. Preserving these buildings and the communities that contain them is crucial to preserving the New Orleans that people all over the world know and love.
If you own a building designated as historical or in a historical area, you will need to carefully comply with special rules established by the City Council when remodeling or renovating a historical property. Understanding how New Orleans has recently redefined demolition can help you avoid accidentally breaking the law when renovating or remodeling an older building.
The building does not have to come down for a project to count as demolition
To most people, demolition means the destruction of a building, often using explosives or heavy machinery. You probably have no desire to completely tear down the historical edifice that you own but instead want to make it safer, stronger or more useful by updating it.
However, in the context of a historical property in New Orleans, the word demolition has a different meaning. Just making certain changes to the property can qualify as a demolition, even if you largely preserve the same aesthetic value of the original edifice.
For example, if you make changes that affect the appearance or even the visibility of more than 50% of the previously visible roof structure, that could count as demolition. The same is true of changes that remove or hide more than 25% of the existing facade of the building or more than 50% of its exterior wall area. Projects updating historical buildings may have to preserve the appearance and even the materials used to build the structure to comply with current rules.
Understanding the nuances of the preservation-based definition of demolition for historical properties in New Orleans can help you plan a big renovation or remodeling project without running afoul of the rules.