New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Center

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.

Funding Received: 2012
New Orleans, LA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
August 13, 2013

Update & Reflection

It’s finally here: on July 22nd, 2013, construction will officially begin on the Jazz & Heritage Center. We had a little setback because the remediation was more extensive than we’d previously thought. But that’s cleared away and we’re ready to start demolition on the non-historic part of the structure. The crew will start by tearing down the back portion of the center and much of the front interior. We’re also doing pile-driver testing and predrilling to decrease the impact on nearby homes, which date back to the mid-19th century.

On July 16th we’re hosting a neighborhood meeting to talk about the construction, our timeline, and related employment opportunities. We’ve distributed fliers throughout the neighborhood and we’re expecting a good turnout. Between Foundation staff, the architects, and the construction company we should be able to answer any questions about how the Center will affect the community, both during and after construction.

Recent Wins

A couple of new spaces are taking shaping within a few blocks of the Jazz & Heritage Center.

-       Just across the street, on the French Quarter side of Rampart, plans are developing for Habana Outpost. It’s a controversial project that’s come up against some neighborhood opposition. People are concerned that there isn’t enough parking for the 223-seat restaurant and that it will attract noisy, late-night guests. On the other hand, the restaurant will be housed in a renovated former gas station that’s been vacant for decades. After nearly a year of meetings and countless draft revisions the plans have cleared the Vieux Carre Commission's Architectural Review Committee. Now they’re on their way to final review. Despite strong opinions on both sides, we think that developer Sean Meenan has taken the community’s concerns into account and found creative solutions to potential problems – for example, he’s purchased a separate nearby lot just for parking. We’re looking forward to the extra foot traffic the restaurant will bring into the neighborhood. There is a real lack of affordable eating in close proximity to the Jazz & Heritage Center. We hope that having a restaurant like the Habana Outpost just across the street will encourage visitors to make an evening in the Treme, with a concert at the Jazz & Heritage Center and dinner or drinks right across the street.

-       At the other end of the French Quarter – about a mile down Rampart Street – the Saenger Theater is undergoing renovation. It’s a $52 million project that’s expected to be completed in fall 2013. In fact, they have their first few acts booked: Jerry Seinfeld at the end of September and Diana Ross in October. Last week it was reported that architectural drawings lost since 1926 were recently rediscovered. These drawings will help the architect to rebuild the marble balustrade, which was removed in 1964 to make room for an escalator. Prior to finding the drawing, planners were unsure about how to replicate the mezzanine’s outer appearance. We’re pleased about the overall project and even more delighted that the Saenger will be able to replicate its once-glorious interior detail.

-       A member of our development team recently attended a grants review panel at the Arts Council of New Orleans. Members of the arts community discussed the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s grant application and had nothing but good things to say about the Jazz & Heritage Center. We’re always looking to cultivate community support and it was encouraging to have leaders speaking so highly of the Center and the need for it in the New Orleans cultural landscape.


The Heritage School of Music committee is updating its long range plan and mapping out the expansion of the school over the next few years. Foremost on our minds is how to turn a program that has been in existence for more than two decades into a place-based asset while retaining its city-wide impact. Heritage School of Music classes have been held in many different locations across New Orleans and the school has not had a chance to solidify a strong neighborhood identity as a result. Putting the school in the Jazz & Heritage Center, where it will remain for the foreseeable future, will allow us to reach out to young people within walking distance of the Center and build a place-based identity for the school.

We’ve started to discuss neighborhood outreach and we’re planning to hold a number of open houses in the renovated Jazz & Heritage Center. These will help us get to know our neighbors and hopefully help us recruit young people from the neighborhood to the Heritage School. We will also hold performances in nearby schools to get kids interested in music and to let them know that there is a free school of music just down the street. Other parts of the enhanced long range plan include:

-       offering a brass band program in collaboration with the celebrated Preservation Hall

-       opening the Heritage School to ages 10-17

-       developing an All City Big Band to compete in band competitions

-       developing an Artists-in-Residence program in the New Orleans Public School System

-       recording Heritage School classes and making them available for on-line learning

-       increasing summer scholarships to the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp for promising students.

As we map out the next few years, we are working to find ways to create both a place-based cultural resource and a city-wide asset.