Renovation Report: Work begins on McDonogh 31 building

Renovation Report: Work begins on McDonogh 31 building
By: CityBusiness staff reports May 22, 2018 0

Project description: Historic renovation of the closed school into apartments

Address: 800 N. Rendon St.

Owner: Rendon Partners LLC

Architect: Trapolin-Peer Architects

Contractor: Ryan Gootee General Contractors

Space: 30,600 square feet

Cost: $9.5 million

Start date: February 2018

Completion date: December 2018

Built in 1906, the old McDonogh 31 School was last used as Morris F.X. Jeff Elementary School and has sat vacant for years. It was auctioned off by the Orleans Parish School Board in 2012.

Plans to redevelop the historic building fell through until its current owner purchased the building in late 2017 and began construction this year.

Rendon Partners LLC, owned by Ryan Gootee, Jason Hemel and Richard Roth III, performed a comparable renovation of the former Our Lady of Good Counsel School at 1215 Louisiana Ave. into 22 apartments last year.

“The project at Good Counsel was successful, and we were ready to do another,” said Gootee, president and CEO of Ryan Gootee General Contractors.

McDonogh 31 in 1908. Photo courtesy New Orleans Public Library.
McDonogh 31 in 1908. Photo courtesy New Orleans Public Library.

The team is converting McDonogh into 26 one- and two-bedroom market-rate apartments. Four will be in the attic space on the fourth floor of the building. There will also be a pool on the property.

Gootee’s team is salvaging the school’s historic handrails, and its windows will be rebuilt and reused. Its original flooring will be sanded down and reused as well.

Doorways and hallways with transom windows will be repurposed, with some becoming false doors to preserve the property’s historic element. Existing plaster on the front of the building is being restored, and wood trim and crown molding inside is being stripped and reinstalled. Other architectural details being salvaged include built-in cabinets with wood and glass elements.

“The building has good bones, with not a lot of settlement in it,” Gootee said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of shoring we had to do. These buildings were built right, way back when. It’s in good shape.”

A 1908 photo shows two small trees between the sidewalk and street that have blossomed into massive live oaks today. The school’s unique design has two main entrances, one for girls and another for boys.

Federal historic tax credits are being used to help fund the project. After five years, the apartments can be flipped into condos, but Gootee said that hasn’t been determined yet.

“We’re happy to be part of the revitalization of that area, and to bring another property back to life,” he said.