Celebration held for rehabilitation of former historic high school

NEW IBERIA, La. — On February 9, 2023, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held in celebration of the rehabilitation and modernization of the historic former New Iberia High School.

Located at 415 Center Street, in attendance for the new School Days Apartment, according to HRI Public Relations Supervisor Margaret Tuskey, were Louisiana Housing Corporation Executive Director Joshua Hollins, Iberia Parish President M. Larry Richard, Iberia Parish School District Superintendent Heath Hulin, Acadiana Planning Commission CEO Monique Boulet, City of New Iberia Department of Planning & Zoning Director Jane Braud, and First Horizon Community Investment Group Director, Amanda Ward. Josh Collen, President of HRI Communities, overseen the redevelopment of the project, which began in January of last year, and served as emcee for the event. Impetus led the design-build team on the project, its first Louisiana renovation project following its rebranding from Palmisano.

“It is a privilege to have renovated this incredible apartment community, which we converted nearly 30 years ago from the historic New Iberia High School. The comprehensive upgrades to the apartments and common areas will make the entire property resilient and sustainable for decades to come, and raises the entire property to a first-class standard, ensuring that this senior housing development remains an important asset to downtown New Iberia,” said Collen.

“We’re proud to report that expansion of the existing New Iberia Downtown Historic Cultural District allowed HRI Communities, LLC to restore this historic Classical Revival building built in 1926, and take advantage of state historic tax credits in order to subsidize rehabilitation work on the building, and it’s systems,” said New Iberia Mayor Freddie DeCourt.

“I would like to thank HRI Communities for investing in our community and our citizens. Not only does this project preserve our historic former high school, but it also provides much needed affordable housing for our seniors. This 14 million dollar project involved a complete replacement of all of the building’s systems – HVAC, water heaters, electric fixtures, plumbing fixtures, kitchen and bathroom cabinets and countertops, appliances, and laundry equipment. With this extensive renovation our seniors will be assured affordable housing for years to come. Again, thank you HRI Properties,” said Parish President Richard.

“We are excited to work with another Acadiana community, bringing catalytic investments to Iberia Parish,” said Boulet. “It takes a united effort from all involved to complete a project like this. Thanks to HRI and congratulations to Iberia Parish for another great project! I am proud of our partnerships and our work in Acadiana!”

The historic former New Iberia High School was acquired by HRI in 1994. The school, built in 1926, is New Iberia Parish’s only Classical Revival building. Until 1966, the three-story building served as a high school, and a middle school thereafter, until permanently closed in 1990. A reuse of the building into 65 affordable, senior apartments and community facilities was adopted by HRI in 1995, officials say.

The nearly $14 million project provided extensive renovations to the 65 existing one-bedroom units designated for seniors 55 or older with long-term affordability restrictions. The amenity space into the historic but vacant auditorium was also expanded. A comprehensive restoration of the building’s exterior envelope, including critical weatherproofing enhancements, was provided with focuses on mitigating the effects of aging.

A complete replacement of building systems was provided in the School Days renovation and finishes of new installations of all:

Additional community features include:

The School Days’ rehabilitation project adhered to the Enterprise Green Communities best practices for energy efficiency and sustainability. Improvements include the use of only Energy Star appliances/electric fixtures, upgraded insulation, and water conserving plumbing fixtures. The project also adhered to the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation, which guarantees the appropriate treatment and respect of the National Register building’s historical significance.

Financing partners included First Horizon Bank and IBERIABANK as both the construction lender and tax credit investor. Enhanced Capital is purchasing the State Historic Tax Credits generated by the renovation. The project was awarded 9 percent low-income housing tax credits by the Louisiana Housing Corporation and assigned an existing loan to facilitate the preservation of much needed affordable housing for seniors.

“First Horizon is proud to take part in the renovation of School Days and help sustain affordable housing in the New Iberia community. Helping communities thrive through affordable housing is vital. The demand for safe, quality, affordable housing continues both in Louisiana and around the nation, and it remains a top priority for First Horizon as well,” said Ward.

“We applaud the development team on the completion of this historic renovation of 65 affordable housing units in Downtown New Iberia. Not only are these units modernized, but they also adhere to Energy Green Communities best practices making them energy efficient and sustainable,” said Hollins. “LHC invested over $8.5 million in low-income housing tax credits to ensure this critical project was able to become a reality for our senior citizen community.”

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