Today the Thomy Lafon School sits abandoned, high and dry, in the center of what was once the Magnolia / CJ Peete Housing Development. The School Facilities Master Plan for Orleans Parish does not provide for its renovation and does not indicate future plans for any school facility on that site. The building itself could be adapted to other uses: a community resource center, an arts and cultural center, or a small business incubator. New Orleans has a history of this type of adaptive reuse of old school sites. The McDonogh No. 10 School in central city has been redeveloped into Lindy's Place, a residence for women in transition. If school facilities are no longer needed by the school district, they can still assist in the recovery and rebirth of their neighborhoods in other ways. Today's Times-Picayune features a letter to the editor from Wayne Troyer, Architect.Re: "Building boom," Page 1, Aug. 17.
As we progress with the rebuilding of our public schools, we must consider not only the immediate needs of the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board but the long-term goals of neighborhoods affected by the master plan.
With the extent of demolition and replacement proposed, it is imperative that as a community, we step back and evaluate the long-term loss of the culture, diversity and history that these structures represent before they are torn down and hauled to the landfill.
Complete replacement in lieu of renovations and adaptive reuse is simply reckless and immoral.
Land-banking (demolition of existing buildings, seeding the land, fencing it off and then waiting for development sometime in the future) is not a strategy for strengthening neighborhoods.
Renovation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of school buildings can become symbolic of the city's ability to recover and renew itself.
Demolition and replacement show that we have lost respect for our history.
The clean slate approach, at this time of scarcity and escalating cost of building materials, is simply wrong.