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Living in a Landmark

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Sumptuous style returns to Canal Street in the form of luxury condominiums

One of downtown New Orleans’ most cherished landmarks, the 105-year-old former Krauss Department Store building, will be back to its former glory thanks to a massive $70 million luxury condominium and apartment conversion project slated to be completed next month.

The building’s gleaming white facade, sweeping arched windows and intricately carved copper awning have all been painstakingly restored to their original state, circa 1903, when the famed department store first opened at Canal and Basin streets.

The building, now called 1201 Canal Condominiums, features four luxury penthouses, 111 condos and 108 apartments, in addition to a host of upscale amenities such as a rooftop swimming pool and patio area, fitness center, computer lounge, business center, concierge and 24-hour security and valet parking.

1201 Canal is the first and only high-profile downtown condo conversion project to reach fruition among several that have been announced within the past four years. Developer KFK Group had to use a combination of private financing and historic renovation tax credits to finish the project, which was almost derailed by Hurricane Katrina.

“We signed our contract with [Gibbs Construction] the Friday before Katrina, and we planned on starting construction that Tuesday once the storm blew over,” said KFK Group principal Elie Khoury.

The storm delayed the project by 14 months, and Khoury had to make changes. To be eligible for the tax credits, the renovation was split among apartments and condominiums, and everything had to meet strict historic development guidelines. The agreement allows owners to convert the apartments to condos after five years.

The project comprises two six-story structures: the main building on Canal Street and a back building on Iberville and Basin streets that used to be a warehouse for the department store. The rear half of the main building and the entire back structure house one- and two-bedroom condominiums, while the front building contains apartments.

Most of the condominiums were completely finished by mid-October when the building welcomed its first occupants. The building was 80 percent sold then, said Bruce Stewart, director of property and asset management for KFK Group.

“We only have a little more than 25 condominiums left to sell,” he said, adding that agents sold six units in September, including a penthouse that listed for more than $1 million.

The condominiums feature large seven-by-seven-foot windows with sweeping views of the French Quarter and downtown, 16-foot ceilings with sleek track lighting, traditional New Orleans–style molding, tall baseboards and espresso-colored hickory wood flooring. The kitchens boast stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and Shaker-style maple cabinetry in a cherry finish.

“The finishes and all the detailing on this building are head and shoulders above what most apartments have downtown,” Stewart said.

One-bedrooms start at $179,000 and two-bedroom units start at $250,000. Parking costs are included in condo fees, Stewart said.

The apartments begin leasing this month and will be ready to occupy in December. Rental rates vary from $1,250 to $1,850 per month for one-bedroom units to $2,000 to $2,400 for two-bedroom units. Four large corporate apartments face Canal Street and feature the store’s original single-pane, 16-foot-tall arched windows. It cost about $17,000 per window to reglaze and restore all 15 of them, Stewart said.

Developers cut into the massive concrete structure to create three “light wells,” which are open spaces between units that allow natural light to reach interior-facing apartments and condominiums. KFK also had to cut out a new drive-through parking area in the middle of the original building to allow tenants to enter the structure on Basin. The carport will have 24-hour valet service. “Someone coming home at one o’clock in the morning can pull in off of Basin Street, use the remote control and open the gate and someone is here to take their keys,” Stewart said. “They then just whisk themselves up the elevator and go on up home.”

Tight security is a key selling point. The building is next door to the Iberville housing project, and Stewart admitted that prospective tenants do frequently ask about Iberville. “We feel very confident that we can keep this a very safe environment,” he said.

Large iron gates line the front and rear entrance, and there are security cameras throughout the premises. There will also be security guards on the premises at all times.

The main lobby is located behind the carport and includes three elevators, which are in the same location as those in the original Krauss. Outside the lobby are lounge areas that include computer stations, wireless Internet and two 52-inch flat-screen televisions. The top floor includes a large fitness center lined with $75,000 in treadmills, weight training machinery and other equipment. Down the hall, residents will have access to a rooftop patio that features a $300,000 stainless steel pool and hot tub. (Developers had to use sealed stainless steel to be sure the pool would never leak and cause problems with living areas below, Stewart said.) There is even a rooftop amenity for four-legged tenants: Developers installed a small dog run for those times when Fido needs a quick walk and owners don’t feel like leaving the building.

The long-range goal is to add other amenities to give tenants a range of dining and shopping options within the building as well. The Canal Street portion of the structure has 75,000 square feet of retail space available. Stewart said that owners are working to attract a mix of retailers.
“We’d like to see a real inviting coffee shop, deli or a bistro-type restaurant or a wine shop—things of that nature,” Stewart said. “We are talking to operators of those types of businesses.”
The retail space is expected to be completed early next year.