Magazine article Humanities

Louisiana Endownment Acquires a New Home

Magazine article Humanities

Louisiana Endownment Acquires a New Home

Article excerpt

In Turners Hall's early days, visitors toasted newlyweds, cheered somersaulting gymnasts, and debated the hot political issues of the day. The New Orleans hall, built in 1868 by the Turnergemeinde Society, was meant to serve as a social meeting place for its members. Today the building is home to small professional firms, nonprofit organizations, and starting in March, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

The LEH purchased the building this past December after three months of negotiations. According to the endowment's president, Michael Sartisky, the LEH has been contemplating this move for ten years. The LEH has recruited lawyers, bank presidents, a civil engineer, and the mayor's mother, among others, to fill the board's roster.

The endowment's current space, just four blocks from Turners Hall, is located in the city's central business district. Here, office buildings are rapidly being converted into hotels and condos, shrinking the market and raising prices. After four years in this space the LEH was beginning to feel a pinch not only in its pockets, but also in its shoes. Rising rent costs aside, the growth of certain projects required more office space. During its ten-year search, the LEH looked at roughly one hundred buildings and even hired an architect to design a new space. Finally, it found a building that met its criteria in Turners Hall-a centrally located historic property both within its budget and capable of accommodating future growth.

When the thirteen-member staff of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities relocates to Turners Hall in March, they will occupy the entire third floor, as well as a conference room and terrace on the fourth floor-about 30 percent of the 30,000-square-foot building. However, expansion within the hall is a possibility. "Basically, by owning, we control our own destiny," Sartisky says.

Eventually, the endowment hopes to add wired classrooms. Also, it is seeking funding for increased operations in twenty-five states where its family literacy project, "Prime Time," is being piloted. If the program receives the money necessary to expand operations, the project will require more space within the home base.

The LEH will do some general repair work over the next few months, but plans to phase in structural changes over time. After undergoing major renovations in 1982 and 1983, Turners Hall is in relatively good repair. …

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