Work to start on new home for orchestra

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Construction is expected to start within the next 60 days on renovation of a former department store as the new home of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

New Orleans CityBusiness reported (http://bit.ly/1nqtxff) the project should cost about $8 million.

Landis Construction was the lone bidder on conversion of the building on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard into a 14,000-square-foot flexible performance space and community center.

Christian Generes, vice president of preconstruction for Landis, said construction should be complete by the end of the year.

Kronberg Wall Architects of Atlanta designed the space.

The orchestra's ownership group bought the building in September 2013 for $600,000 from Cayman Realty LLC.

State records show Robert and Terry Segura of New Orleans and Robert Ward of Germantown, Tenn., as members of Cayman Realty.

The building sits on land that was once part of the Dryades Street Market, which was built in 1849.

Orchestra CEO Ronald Markham said the organization spent more than seven months raising money to build the theater, which will be the orchestra's first exclusive home. The orchestra also received about $600,000 from the state construction fund in October.

The project will use state theater infrastructure and historic tax credits and possibly federal New Market Tax Credits.

Markham said the traveling orchestra has become accustomed to performing in spaces designed for classical orchestras, but the new theater space will be tailored to the "jazz experience."

The project involves modifying the roof and interior walls to enhance acoustics.

Sarah Busch, project executive for Landis Construction, said the building's masonry walls are suitable, but the new structure will use salvaged hard pine and cypress to create a "sound baffle" around the stage area. The roof will be converted to a wood deck.

The concert space will have a lobby area with a bar and a second-floor mezzanine area with additional seating. The performance space will be able to accommodate 610 people.

The building's façade will include glass storefront windows, additional entrances and landscaping.

Markham said the Central City neighborhood was home to jazz greats Buddy Bolden, Kid Ory and Jelly Roll Morton. The orchestra wanted its new home to build on the community's history, he said.

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Information from: New Orleans CityBusiness, http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com

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