Historic Blue Plate Factory Will Be Converted To Artist Housing By HRI Properties & JCH Development
The building where local favorite Blue Plate Mayonnaise was produced for a generation will be transformed by New Orleans-based developers HRI Properties and JCH Development, into 72 loft-style apartments specially designed for artists.
The Blue Plate building is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks and is located in a designated Louisiana Cultural District.
“The Blue Plate factory, so visible at the intersection of Earhart, Washington and S. Jeff Davis Parkway, is truly iconic to all New Orleanians,” said Josh Collen, HRI’s Vice President for Development. “It was one of the few buildings constructed during World War II and is one of the most distinctive examples of mid-20th century architecture,” he said.
“It will not only be a catalytic project for the neighborhood and surrounding communities, but also return the Blue Plate sign to lights,” said Tara Hernandez, JCH Development president and project executive for the project. “So many New Orleanians know this landmark as the place where “ya mama’s mynezz” was made for half a century,” she added.
“Soon Blue Plate Artist Lofts will become equally iconic as artist preference housing to support the burgeoning creative industry that is leading the post-Katrina New Orleans economy,” Hernandez added.
The $25 million project will create 72 mixed income loft-style units with a leasing preference for artists. The building will include on-site gated parking, a multi-purpose room and gallery space for exhibitions, a roof deck, an outdoor patio, a sound-proof music rehearsal room, a fitness center and a business center.
In addition, a number of renewable and sustainable design features have been incorporated into the building to reduce residents’ utility costs and overall operating costs.
“It was truly a public-private partnership where neighborhood organizations and stakeholders, private, city and state interests worked together to restore something so important to the community” Hernandez said.
HRI has extensive experience in developing artist-preference housing, most recently with the Bywater Art Lofts in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans.
Initial interior demolition has begun and occupancy is scheduled to begin in March 2012.
The Blue Plate building was originally constructed in 1941 as the United States entered World War II. Designed by famed New Orleans architect August Perez, it was the first building in New Orleans constructed in the Art Moderne style. The sleek structure is famous for its distinctive smooth, all-white exterior, rounded glass-block corners and the iconic Blue Plate rooftop sign.
Reily Foods commissioned the building to make Blue Plate Mayonnaise, one of the first commercially prepared mayonnaise products in the country and for years one of the South’s best selling products. Later, Reily expanded the factory with an addition built in 1948, and eventually produced Blue Plate Sandwich Spread, a line of salad dressings, Luzianne Tea, Wick Fowler’s Two-Alarm Chili and Taco Seasoning and Carroll Shelby Original Texas Chili and BBQ Sauce in the factory.
Because the plant was constructed during World War II, it utilizes unusual construction techniques required to meet the challenges of labor and material shortages during the height of the war effort. Innovative acid-proofing technologies was also incorporated into the design and construction to preserve the building from the corrosive effects of the ingredients used in the food production process.
Reily Foods ceased production in the Blue Plate building in 1999. The building was eventually sold to a private investor, then acquired by JCH Development. JCH and HRI then partnered to restore the building and convert to residential use.
Financial partners in the project include Chase bank AEGON USA Realty Advisors, LLC, Stonehenge Capital Company, City of New Orleans Office of Community Development, Louisiana Office of Community Development and Louisiana Housing Finance Agency.
The design-build contractor for the development is Woodward Design+Build, a privately held firm founded in 1924 and based in New Orleans. HRI’s in-house architectural firm, HCI Architecture, serves as the architect of record for the project.