Downtown living on the rise

February 17, 2012 5:43 AM

Carol J. Schlueter

Marcel Wisznia’s business card is a heads-or-tails game. The Tulane alumnus has “architect” on one side and “developer” on the other. With big stakes in downtown New Orleans, he is convinced residential living there is on the upswing.

Marcel Wisznia

“I’m very optimistic about the future” for residential living in downtown New Orleans, says architect, developer and Tulane alumnus Marcel Wisznia. (Photo by Tina Brown)

Wisznia doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict that downtown New Orleans could become a center for urban living — he sees the trend shaping up. A 1973 graduate of the School of Architecture and a member of the dean’s board of advisers, he already has several high-rise apartment complexes in carefully renovated historic properties downtown and has a new project ready to go.

“New Orleans is at a positive tipping point,” says Wisznia, about the downtown residential scene. “What’s fun to be a part of and to watch is the creation of critical mass, which will then solidify the whole urban living approach in downtown New Orleans.”

The successful launch of Rouses Market at 701 Baronne St., meeting an important need for grocery shopping for this growing group of urban dwellers, has proven a point, Wiszina thinks. It has “allowed other retailers that have been somewhat skeptical about the viability of the downtown market to rethink their positions.”

Hence his tipping point and critical mass argument. “The next two or three years will begin to successfully infill amenities we all want and need to really have urban living fun and convenient. But we’re on the road — I’m very optimistic about the future.”

His two newest residential developments, the Maritime at 800 Common St. (built in 1893) and the Saratoga at 212 Loyola Ave. (built in 1956), are both ahead of underwriters’ expectations in both leasing demand and rates, he says.

Wisznia expects his next project, called the Garage — the $35 million historic renovation of a 1951-era car dealership and later parking garage at 840 Carondelet St. into 65 apartments — will begin construction this summer.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000