Monday, December 29, 2008

New Orleans Centerpiece of New Brad Pitt Film

I just saw Brad Pitt’s new film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, at our historic Prytania theatre on Sunday night. I’ve paid more attention, mostly for appreciative reasons, to Brad Pitt’s career since he has decided to make New Orleans his home as well as the focus of his charitable ventures such as his Make It Right Foundation. With the film taking place and having been shot right here in New Orleans (some of the many movie production trucks crowding around historic NOLA sites that have been appearing commonly since Katrina belong to this production), Brad Pitt again helps out his adopted home. This time he helps by reminding the outside world of just how picturesque, magical, and downright unique and beautiful place the city of New Orleans remains to this day.

I agree with Roger Ebert’s assertion that “Button” was very reminiscent of screenwriter Eric Roth’s other work, “Forrest Gump”. But hey, it’s not like Forrest Gump was a box office bomb, so maybe they did this on purpose. And if you liked “Gump”, you are almost certain to like this film, as the heavy-handed sentimentality of the earlier film is omnipresent in this feature as well. Pitt does, as always, a steady and believable job in the eponymous lead role, as well as providing his standard eye candy for the ladies. The film loses its way a bit, in my opinion, about ¾ of the way through when Pitt’s character finally realizes his long anticipated romance with Cate Blanchett and ponders his future as husband as father and makes choices that I found hard to swallow (I’ll be intentionally vague to avoid any spoiler alerts).

What the film did best was feature the city of New Orleans, its architecture, flora and resplendent beauty as both background AND centerpiece for this story. The French and Garden Quarters are heavily featured, with much of St. Charles Avenue and the streetcar line there. There are locations on Prytania, Napoleon and Esplanade as well as plenty of the mighty Mississippi and Audobon Park. For a person familiar with the city, the film takes on a new level of enjoyment as you play your own version of “Where’s Waldo” with the houses and landmarks of the city.

Its been said that the film exists as an apology from the film’s producers to the city of New Orleans for the city’s shabby treatment at the hands of Katrina and botched government assistance. Whether this is true or not, it’s nice to see the film industry paint such a loving homage to our beautiful city and for such an outstanding template to urge future filmmakers to come here as well. -CB

Previews at the New Orleans Office of Film and Video:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Free Money for College Graduates!

Stephen Maloney, staff writer at New Orleans City Business published an interesting article at the end of last month that was of particular import to young professionals who might be thinking of buying their first home. The article discusses the “Grants for Grads” program which was signed into law by Governor Jindal on July 6th of this year.

What this grant provides is a $10,000 or $15,000 state tax rebate for those Louisiana native college graduates who are buying their first home. And what a fantastic opportunity this is to take advantage of if you fit the requirements (went to high school in LA, are now a recent college graduate, are interested in buying a first home)! Individuals receive the $10,000 rebate, married couples the $15,000.

The idea behind the Grants for Grads program is to counter a perceived “brain drain”, as the article refers to it, where Louisiana natives are leaving the state after college to settle elsewhere. Why this in actuality may not be terribly true, what is important is that the grant is now law, is very real, and is giving money away to first time home buyers. I urge you strongly to see if you qualify for the very minimal requirements and jump at this opportunity and once in a lifetime incentive!

Here are the more detailed requirements:

Eligibility: Any LA resident who has received a college degree in 2008 and was a LA resident when they graduated from high school.

Requirements: Must provide evidence of LA residency and a certified transcripts from the high school and colleges from which they graduated. Applicants must intend to live in LA for five years from the point at which they buy their first LA home.

Here’s the website for Louisiana Housing Finance Agency where you can find information about applying for the Grants for Grads program:

Here’s a link to Stephen Maloney’s article (hosted on All Business’ website, although I read the article in City Business):

If you qualify, apply! If you need any type of help with this and/or with finding a home to purchase, contact me and I will be there for you. -Charlie

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Orleans Condos As Good Investments

With many market soothsayers predicting the end times, it can certainly rob one of enthusiasm for home buying at this murky juncture. While the doomsayers are more prevalent in recent months, this cacophony of negativity is not necessarily accurate, particularly in regards to specific markets, so it is always worth your while to do some research to find out the truth of the situation. To this purpose, respected Business journalist Kate Moran recently wrote an interesting article concerning condominium values in New Orleans:

In case you don’t want to take the time to read Ms Moran’s piece, I will point out the highlights as well as throw in my own insights on her major points.

1). “Condominium prices in greater New Orleans defied national trends with a robust performance in the third quarter of the year, rising 7.7 percent even as most major markets remained in the vise grip of the real estate downturn.” Wow. This is good news for New Orleans and more evidence that New Orleans’ is a different kind of city that marches to the beat of its own zydeco band, and whose economic outlook does not always reflect the national picture.

2). “…sales of second homes have helped buoy the condo market in greater New Orleans.” This second home issue is important. The affordability of New Orleans condos does make them a worthwhile investment. Particularly for parents of students who may be sending their children off to Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, UNO, or LSU post grad. New Orleans is a college town and the large number of esteemed universities here means that this cycle of parents sending their kids here will continue, and that there will be future buyers for your investment.

Imagine the scenario of a parent whose daughter is coming to New Orleans from out of state to attend 4 years at Tulane. Instead of renting a perhaps dodgy apartment or a temporary stay in a shotgun home, a smart condo purchase would result in top accommodations for daughter during her college years and then could be used afterwards as a winter or vacation home, or sold off at a profit!

3). Home prices have held aloft in this region partly because New Orleans has not suffered from the foreclosure epidemic afflicting states such as California, where formerly sky-high real estate prices helped drive a wave of speculation and risky investing.“ In fact, New Orleans condos have seen an overall appreciation of 5% to 10% in non-flooded areas after Katrina, again, showing them to be a solid investment.

Now although there is much that is positive about the real estate (and specifically condo) situation in New Orleans, there is also the reality that we are in for a stretch of tougher economic times at the national level, which will have to eventually trickle down in some way to our fair Crescent City. This bleak national outlook has manifested itself in the prediction that in the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2009, that some NOLA condos will lose 2% to 5% of their value. Oh no! But, wait, oh yes! Because of New Orleans otherwise very stable condo economy, this 1st and 2nd quarter loss will really be creating great buying opportunities for the 2nd and 3rd quarter of 2009. So be alert, do your research and be on the lookout at this time, for there are sure to be some great buys out there, and as Ms Moran has stated, condos in New Orleans can be solid, stable, and fruitful investments.

- Charlie

Monday, December 8, 2008

New Orleans Pet Friendly Condos

If you’re an animal lover and have pets of your own (or plan to someday adopt a new family member of the hirsute kind), one thing that it is absolutely imperative to keep at the forefront of your mind when looking for a condo is whether the condo association is pet friendly…or not. I have two dachshunds myself and know firsthand how attached we humans can become to our animals. Nowadays, more and more condo associations are going with a no pet policy, which basically equates to a “look elsewhere” policy for pet owners.

To benefit pet owners, I have researched and highlighted here some pet friendly condos here in New Orleans. I’ll start with 2 in the Uptown/Garden District.

3300 St. Charles Avenue (Commodore Condos) – The pet friendly Commodore Condos are located in Uptown and are known for their safety. St. Charles Avenue is also a prime location, being on the main streetcar line and Mardi Gras parade route. The entire grounds are enclosed by a security gate (allowing even for pet owners to walk their dog at night without leaving a secured area) and have secure parking as well. If I were sending my daughter and her dog to the city for college, this would be the place I would pick.

3915 St. Charles Avenue (Saint Charles Gardens) – Another pet friendly uptown condo, the St. Charles Gardens’ units encloses a central courtyard and a pool. Gated parking, a security guard and a full gym make this another safe New Orleans bet.

760 Magazine Street (Magazine Place Condos) – Switching to the Warehouse District (but not all that far from the two locations above), these condos also feature a central courtyard and are, of course, pet friendly. The rooftop has been converted into a scenic leisure area and the building contains a gym. Located near the museums and just 7 blocks from the French Quarter.

920 Poeyfarre Street (Cotton Mill Condos) – These brick Warehouse District condos host a pool and party room, full gym, inner courtyard, gate, security station and a pet friendly attitude. Interiors have high ceilings and wood floors. A great looking property.

And there are 4 places where you can take your pooches in the city.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New to New Orleans, Megan and Andy

I made a couple of new friends this summer when two young professionals from California found me from a Craiglist ad and inquired about purchasing a home in downtown New Orleans. Well, Megan and Andy didn’t end up buying a home from me, but we did end up friends. I was telling Andy about my new blogging interest and he came up with the idea of posting a newcomer’s perspective to the New Orleans scene. I thought that might prove interesting to someone else who was thinking about moving to the Crescent City, so I asked him to write a piece for me. Here’s what Andy had to say:

Hello readers of Charlie’s blog! I’m a new resident of New Orleans. My wife and I just moved here in July after having spent the entirety of our lives in Northern California. My wife, Megan, was accepted into Tulane University Medical School (Go Megs!) and so we set off for the biggest adventure of our lives. Honestly, I was extremely proud of and happy for Megan, but I was none too excited about leaving Cali and coming to Louisiana, a state that would probably have been my 50th choice amongst the 50 states to move to. Luckily, I have discovered that New Orleans is not much like the rest of Louisiana.

I was, of course, worried about the state of things here in the city. Having heard nothing but horror stories (from people who, like me, lived 2600 miles away and really didn’t know) I was expecting to find a dilapidated, third-world city upon my arrival here, but was plenty surprised to find a proud, vibrant city that was already well on its way to getting back on its feet. Sure, there is, and always will be, work to do, but the city is alive and well and has an energy and life to it that makes it a truly fun place to live. I was worried also about the heat and the crime, but have found out that just like any other big city - as long as you have common sense and awareness that you have little to worry about. The heat, however, takes some getting used to. I’m not going to be forgiving about the heat. :)

Now is a great time to be in New Orleans. The city is coming back to life after Katrina, and there is a wealth of opportunities to get involved and make a difference and be a part of the city. As a public schoolteacher, I have never been confronted with a system that more needs dedicated and caring individuals to take part in rebuilding a formerly (Katrina or no) crumbling system. The public school systems here need and are appreciative of those who want to work to make a difference. Megan, in addition to her studies, volunteers at Ochsner Hospital and a Tulane sponsored recovery house for women.

I’ve gotten more into food since I’ve been here. What they say about the food and restaurants of this city is true – among the best in the world. In addition to Cajun and Creole specialties they have excellent ethnic restaurants of every type. I thought I might be out of luck for Japanese, and my favorite, Mexican, but they have one of the best little Sushi restaurants (Kyoto) and a great south of the border (Superior Grill) place right here in uptown. And those are just my choices from the ones I have been to! It will take me a long time before I get to sample even half of what they have to offer even just in my neck of the woods.

Anyway, I’m supposed to keep this somewhat short so I’ll wrap up. We ended up renting half of a double shotgun home in Uptown instead of buying a house, but Charlie took care of us as if we were buying. He’s a hell of a nice guy and he showed us the entire city and chauffeured us around for a week in June when we came here to scope things out. If you are looking for a home in New Orleans, I highly recommend contacting him. Megan and I are hoping to be able to buy our own little place here in maybe a year or so. The Uptown area has great neighborhoods, beautiful homes and greenery and will be the place we will buy in. -AH

Brad Pitt Builds Green Houses

We’ve all heard about New Orleans’ many famous denizens. Archie Manning’s and Anne Rice’s homes are staples of any New Orleans Garden District tour worth its red beans and rice. But newer to the New Orleanian fold are the most famous Hollywood stars that operate under a single unifying moniker. I am, of course, referring to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The two megastars purchased a high end property in the French Quarter to make their primary residence, and more important than the added tourist dollars that their collective star power will bring to our city (reports of Angelina sightings in French Quarter restaurants and playgrounds are a current mainstay of tabloids) is the pledge that the couple are making to rebuild the city.

Pitt, who is interested in architecture and has studied under Frank Gehry, has pledged 5 million of his own dollars to begin a homebuilding initiative, dubbed Make It Right (MIR), which will focus on building new homes for families who lost theirs in Hurricane Katrina. The homes will be built to LEED standards, which further demonstrates Pitt’s dedication to environmental causes. The homes built so far have an interesting visual style. While some designs allude to the New Orleans “shotgun” style of home design and have drawn praise for this, some others are more unusual and have drawn criticism for being similar in appearance to double-wide trailers. Ugh. I think, however, we should all remember that Brad has excellent aesthetic tastes (look at his wife) and that he should be lauded, rather than criticized for his humanitarian efforts.

I have included some photos of MIR’s housing designs at the top of this post. What do you think of them?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In the Military and Buying a Home in New Orleans?

New Orleans Military Relocation:

As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, I know that frequent transfers are a fact of life in today's military. I've been there and I've done that. No matter how many times you have done it, however, it is never easy to move your family to another city.

So when it is time to make your move, consider the many benefits of working with a military veteran who is an expert and who know answers to your questions about neighborhoods, schools, home prices, shopping, organized sports, restaurants and shopping in the area around your new base.

In the New Orleans Metro Area, there are several military installations to include, NSA Algiers, NAS JRB Belle Chasse, Headquarters Marine Forces Reserve, USCG New Orleans, and the Louisiana National Guard.

Should you come to the New Orleans area on House Hunting Permissive TAD, I recommend that you make contact with the Combined Bachelor Quarters at NSA Algiers, to set up affordable, military accomodations for your stay. The Combined Bachelor Quarters can be reached 24 hours a day/7 days a week at the following phone numbers:

Front Desk (504) 678-3419 or 3549 (DSN 678)
Reservations Desk (504) 678-3840 or (DSN 678)
Fax (504) 678-9745 or (DSN 678)

Transient Guests
Anyone traveling on Funded TAD/TDY orders should make their reservations through the SATO reservations desk toll free at (800) 576-9327. Anyone traveling on any other type of orders should contact the CBH reservations desk at (504) 678-3840. Military (active or retired) members who are space available or leisure travelers can make reservations in advance if rooms are available.

For more information, check out these websites!

Naval Support Activity:
Belle Chasse JRB/NAS:
LA National Guard:
Marine Forces Reserve: