Renovation giving building new life for local Red Cross

Reposted from the Town Talk’s website

Renovation work continues on the Cotton Brothers Building — soon to be the new location of the Central Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross. 

The organization began renovations earlier this year to the building located at 425 Bolton Ave. in Alexandria. But just recently workers with Petron tore down an add-on to the original building, said Leann Murphy, CEO of the local Red Cross chapter.

Murphy said removal of the addition from the original art-deco structure helped open up the whole block of Bolton.

Workers now are constructing load-bearing walls inside the 75-year-old structure to allow for roof repairs.

Once the renovations are finished, the building will serve as office space and provide the Red Cross with a warehouse and designated training area. The second floor of the building will be left vacant initially. Read the rest of the story here:


Inside Cotton Brothers/Trailways Building -- soon to be American Red Cross Headquarters

Inside Cotton Brothers/Trailways Building -- soon to be American Red Cross Headquarters


Cotton Brothers Bakery BECOMING Red Cross Headquarters

I was excited to receive an email and pictures today from Melinda Anderson, Director of the City of Alexandria’s Historic Preservation Commission (AHPC), of work that’s being started on the old Cotton Brothers Bakery/Trailways building on Bolton Avenue.  Ever since the news that the American Red Cross bought the building and obtained grants to rehabilitate it, I have passed by this building, almost daily, hoping to see contractors working or bricks being moved…or something!  Nothing really much has changed over the past 24 months…until today!  Here is what it looks like right now:



I am excited for the city, for my neighborhood, for the American Red Cross and double thumbs up to all involved in saving this historic structure and for finding a new use for it.  Preservation of a historic or older building is the ultimate green thought. I can’t wait to see the final product!  I know this building will be a shining star on the Bolton Avenue corridor.   I look forward to more stories like this.  Alexandria needs it.


425 Bolton Avenue

Yay!  Tuesday, a wall breaking ceremony was conducted at 425 Bolton Avenue which signified a turning point in this building’s history.  Instead of a date with the wrecking ball, this building will be given new life and new purpose by being rehabilitated into the local American Red Cross’ headquarters.  It is a monument on Bolton Avenue and many persons remember fondly riding their bike down Bolton Avenue alongside this building.  The grants and funds obtained for this project are going to be well spent.  I am excited to see the American Red Cross get a “new”, larger headquarters, all the while advancing Alexandria’s historic preservation.  Thumbs up to the City, HPC and all persons who made this possible.

Here are some pictures from yesterday’s ceremony.:




The trade: Marshall for Lavardain — is anything different?

Sigh….  I was optimistically hoping that Alexandria was going to see a new day in politics following our recent council elections. I even congratulated Mr. Lavardain for a race well run.  However, after reading council minutes and watching that ridiculous display by Bridgett Brown in the recent council meeting, all I can say is that a race well run is a big difference from being a Councilman.  I applaud Mayor Roy for repeating himself and being very patient while being interrupted several times during his report.  It seems like we are still stuck on making race an issue during council meetings.  It seems that Goins and Lavardain were bent on making a point about African American businesses not getting a larger chunk of business from the city of Alexandria.  I don’t understand why they are so concerned with that one ethnic group.  I live in Mr. Lavardain’s district and I am caucasian.  He should be fairly representing me also.  Why not be concerned with all ethnicities and all issues.  Yet, here we are again, making race an issue.  And, not just any race, but the African American race.  I am sooooooooo sick of it!  Its a new day.  Its a new year.  It is a new CENTURY!  The cotton picking days are over.

If I was a council member, I would ask: 1) How many minorities own businesses in Alexandria; 2) Do they qualify for city business, or have a service that the city needs; 3) Do they even want to qualify for city contracts; 4) Are they doing what they need to do in order to submit a bid and qualify for a city contract.  If you are interested in getting city business, research what you need to do and do it.  I don’t feel that the city is handing out contracts to all of the non-minority business just be racist.  They are probably accepting bids to those who offer great services at low prices, or because their business might be the only one in the market for that particular job.  To make it a race thing is just pathetic.  I would really be upset if the city started picking contracts based on race or gender instead of quality of work or product to be offered.  It is not fair to pass over a bid from a business because it is minority owned, but it is equally unfair to pass over a bid because it is caucasian owned. 

This whole saga about putting Von Jennings on administrative leave is making my head hurt.  I think the real reason she was put on leave was put very nicely in the last paragraph of the Town Talk’s story today:

Jennings said her attempts to compile data on minority-owned businesses were frequently met by a lack of support and funding from the administration. And when she was questioned by council members and expressed her problems, Jennings claims, she was placed on leave for “external conversations.”

Roy denied both of these accusations. Instead, he claimed that Jennings did not report to work and did not advance the AFEAT program.

Well, duh.  If I didn’t report to work or do what I was supposed to, I would get fired to.  Its as simple as that.  It really galls me when I read this sentence:

Jennings said her attempts to compile data on minority-owned businesses were frequently met by a lack of support and funding from the administration. And when she was questioned by council members and expressed her problems, Jennings claims, she was placed on leave for “external conversations.”

It just sounds to me like she was just not doing her job and making excuses for herself.  I have see many people in the city who have been given little funding, but they sure are whipping out progress.  The HPC (Historic Preservation Commission) for example is operating on a very small budget (from what I understand) and that office has done some very good work with the little they have.  In fact, I think I will write a post about that in a minute.

I want to throw my hands up in the air.  Lets talk logic here.  Lets not make it about race, creed, color, religion, etc. etc., but let us use a little common sense and speak logically.  That is a new word for the council, LOGIC.  It appears that we are sadly lacking in that department.  It makes me wonder if Alexandria will ever emerge from the dark ages and get up to speed. Sadly, if our council and administration stay divided, this is not going to happen.  I have to further applaud the mayor for being a gentleman and trying his best to spur the city forward.  I just wish the council could get on the same page and stop beating this dead horse they call “racism within the city administration”.  It is a card that is sadly played out.  Move on!  Move the city forward.


Old Empty Building To Become Useful Again


Nothing warms my heart more than to see an old historic building being renovated and turned into useful real estate.  Unfortunately, we have many old buildings languishing here in Cenla.  The American Red Cross purchased a building just a couple blocks from my house and will start construction next month to return this building to its former glory.  This is historic preservation in Cenla at its finest moment in many years.  In my book, I think that the opening of the Bentley would be the only thing that could trump this event.  I am excited because it should start breathing life into Bolton Avenue and subsequently the surrounding neighborhoods.  I am here to stay!

Click here to read KALB’s recent story

I received an invitation to the “Wall Breaking” ceremony for this building that will be held on January 13th at 1:30 p.m.  The address of the building is 425 Bolton Avenue.  Persons wishing to attend this historic event are welcome.


Trailways Bus Building to Take on New Life

I heard that the environmental studies came back favorable for the American Red Cross and that they were going to be able to move forward soon and rehabilitate the old bus building on Bolton Avenue.  At long last that news is confirmed.  In today’s Legal Recorder it is noted that Gene Sanders sold the building located at 425 Bolton Avenue to the American Red Cross.  YAY!  I am very excited.  This will bring a new face to the area of town where I live.  Not only is the American Red Cross saving a historic building by relocating their headquarters, they are also breathing life into an area that badly needs it.

The best thing about the whole deal is, I believe that most of the money/labor for the project is being donated or allocated from other funds than the American Red Cross’.  Also, the Historic Preservation Commission worked with the American Red Cross to obtain grants to pay for the environmental studies.  Good job to all!

Historic Designations Explained

In answer to my question:

Thank you for your comments. They are always welcome. I am not trying to put all of the blame on the commission for failure to act, I am just asking why some properties are advocated for and some are not. Shouldn’t it be fair?

Lamar White, Jr. answers and explains as follows:

Andrea, in both instances– the Armour building and the Cotton Brothers Bakery Building– the advocacy began when individuals connected with those projects alerted the commission to act. This did not occur with 2401 Monroe Street.

But I must remind you that the Armour building is, in no way, a done deal. Although it has certainly gained a lot of attention (in large part because the non-profit that owns the building was seeking to use federal money, which required public attention), the situation has not materially changed. The City is doing what it can do– coordinating with the EPA, etc.– but ultimately, we’re all in need of preservation partners– other governmental agencies, non-profits, and private developers who are better suited to tackle this type of renovation and preservation project.

Regarding the ordinances: I understand the commission is in the process of drafting a new set of ordinances, and we are also looking into best practices from other municipalities.

But I think you may have some confusion about what, exactly, an historic declaration means. Believe it or not, the designation does not protect a property from demolition, even if it is on the National Register. The designation does, however, allow the property owner to enjoy the benefits of certain targeted tax credit programs.

For the most part, only a property owner can submit a property for consideration on the register.

Now, that said, there is a difference between a property being singled out as significant and an entire neighborhood being called a “historic district.” The HDPC can advise on the boundaries of any historic districts, but ultimately, the City Council must approve their recommendations. Again, currently, the HDPC does not have the authority to issue certificates of appropriateness. In fact, currently, the City does not issue certificates of appropriateness at all; there simply isn’t a mechanism in place yet.

I agree that the current ordinances are a little confusing.

Advocacy begins on an individual level– with people like you and your neighbors.

I hope that clears up some confusion. Let me know if there are any other questions I can answer.

Thank you Lamar for clearing that up.  I appreciate your time.  As always, I welcome accurate information and stand to be corrected. 

Andrea Warren

What is the purpose of having a commission?

I am left scratching my head and wondering what the function of the HPC is if “There [is] nothing we could have done, should have done or plan to do.” (Town Talk Article 7-19-08, remarks by Ed Crump, President of the HPC) regarding the home that was moved from 2401 Monroe Street. According to the Historic Preservation’s Website, a description of what the HPC is supposed to be doing for our city is:

What We Do

The purpose of the commission is to preserve the unique architectural character of our [Alexandria’s] older buildings and neighborhoods.

Why Its Important

Older buildings and neighborhoods are our physical link to this community’s cultural heritage. Preservation of our historic structures insures Alexandria will retain its unique architectural and cultural identity for the future. By celebrating that identity we engender pride in our community and become a place where more people will want to live and work.     

 Do you think what was done at 2401 Monroe Street helped Alexandria retain its unique architectural and cultural identity for the future? No. The house was moved outside of the city limits. Therefore Alexandria LOST a piece of its identity and unique architectural and cultural identity. Do you think what was done at 2401 Monroe Street helped engender pride in the community and helped Monroe Street become a place where more people will want to live and work? No.

 If there is nothing they could or should have done, then why do we even have a commission? We are wasting taxpayer money.  Supposedly, there was nothing they “could or should have done” about the Bus Station on Bolton Avenue or the Armour Building.  However, they did it anyway.  My last question: What then, pray tell, is the function of the HPC? To allow their commissioners to move historic homes out of the Alexandria city limits further blighting an area of Alexandria? Isn’t that counterproductive?  To pick and choose which projects they want to work on?  I believe that the HPC has been commissioned to protect the assets of the city.  ALL of the city, not just the parts which they deem need preservation.  In this instance they have failed at their duties. 

People say they would never live on Monroe Street.  That’s fine.  Don’t.  I have three things to say then: 1) Don’t come around and make it worse; 2) Don’t allow people to come in and remove what we have left; 3) Don’t criticize people for standing up for their neighborhood and trying to make it a better place.  The issue here is not whether or not you want to live here.  The issue is that the Historic Preservation Commission is acting insincere in advocating for some projects in parts of the city, but not for all.  Also, for turning a blind eye when one of their commissioners moved this house because this commissioner did not want to live there or thought that someone else would not want to live there.  I DON’T CARE whether you want to live here or not.  So, just because you don’t want to live here, it is ok to further destruct and devastate the area?  The rules only apply when you think they should apply?  That is absurd and defies logic.  It is the same as saying I only kinda broke the law.  Or, I kinda passed the test.  Or, the rules don’t apply to me because the area is blighted.  Always justifying actions.  My parents used to tell me that if you have to sit down and try to justify your actions, you are basically trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, you need to go back and see what your intentions were…chances are, they were not honorable and you need to reevaluate your actions.  I think the same theory applies here.  The HPC needs to reevaluate who they are, what they are supposed to be doing and advocate fairly for all areas of Alexandria.

Town Talk Article 7-19-08

Wow….I am completely blown away by the article in the Town Talk this morning.  It appears that the TT was just trying to fill space and either cut this article down quite a bit, or just threw out a couple random tidbits in this house moving saga.  I am completely disappointed that there were not any preservation facts contained in it and, further, they have the President of the HPC as commenting that this whole thing is a “non-issue”.  And that is who is leading the way for preservation in our city.  Thanks a lot.  (For the whole story, read from the bottom of the blog up.  I also posted links to the other side of the story)

Part of the HPC’s function within the City of Alexandria is advocating for and helping blighted neighborhoods.  Not, helping or allowing people to buy our historic buildings and move them outside of the city limits.  By recent survey, over 80% of our historic buildings in Alexandria are now gone.  When are we going to wake up?

I am totally disgusted.  I am going to go have some coffee and write some more letters.  😀

Andrea Warren