Marvel star Anthony Mackie wanted to do work on his home. Here's why city officials denied him
New Orleans-born actor Anthony Mackie is trying to raise his Esplanade Avenue home to avoid floodwaters and give his family more room, he said in a letter to the City Council on Thursday.
But due to the home's location, the City Council and the Historic District Landmark Commission are vetoing the plan.
Mackie and architect Malcolm LeBlanc of ML Designs have spent the past five months trying to expand his home that sits on the historical barrier between the Seventh Ward and the Treme. Thursday, they attempted to appeal the decision that the HDLC gave in October, which said their plans to raise the home over four feet would alter the architectural and historical significance of the house to the City Council.
The final vote from the council tallied at 6 to 1, with the lone vote against it coming from Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer. The measure needed unanimous support from the council to override the HDLC's ruling, though the appeal will reappear in the council at its next meeting on Dec. 1.
"This is a very bad precedent on a very public street with huge architectural significance," Palmer said.
Mackie, who’s most famously known for his role as Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, wanted to build a second story for the 1888 home but was first denied by the Architectural Review Committee, an arm of the HDLC. As a compromise, Mackie and LeBlanc re-submitted a plan to raise the ceiling on the first floor just over four feet to make the subspace more livable.
But even with the compromise, the HDLC denied the plan because the commission believes raising a house would make it a demolition.
Mackie did not come to the meeting, saying that he was out of the country for work, but wrote a letter to all council members. Council member Jared Brossett, who returned to the council Monday after missing one month of council duties following his drunk driving arrest, read the letter into the record.
The letter said that Mackie and his team thought they had received approval from the ARC, "but for some reason, a very detrimental disapproval letter was excluded from the letter we received," Mackie wrote. He said the error caused his team to be blindsided in the full HDLC meeting.
Currently, the home's subspace needs to be raised 18 inches to be up to code for a living space. The ceiling's height is currently not comfortable enough to inhabit, said LeBlanc, who noted that he is under 6 feet tall and still has issues with the height.
During the appeal, Eleanor Burke, the deputy director of the HDLC, said the team should look into adding more square footage on the backside of the home as their current plan is a "drastic action that would negatively impact the architectural significance of the structure and its relationship to the historic Esplanade Avenue corridor."
LeBlanc said that the Commission and the Architectural Review Committee are usually pretty easy to work with; his last trip to the council for an appeal was around 10 years ago.
But a recent rule change could be the reason they didn’t get approval, he said. LeBlanc said that raising the ceiling of a basement is now a full demolition project, a rule that was passed by the council in March.
LeBlanc told the council that the designs would also give the home flood mitigation, which Burke pointed out in her opinion as false. Burke said the subspace acts as a flood deterrent already, keeping the house's first floor seven feet above grade. By creating a new first floor, the ground floor would be only a foot and a half above grade.
Burke also told the council the committee was against raising the home so the owner could build a cigar and wine room and a golf simulation room into the Queen Anne Style Cottage.
Mackie said that he is trying to add more space to accommodate his family inside the home in his letter. The plans for the home include adding three more bedrooms on the ground floor as well as the entertainment rooms Burke commented on.
"Regular citizens without my capacity are shut out of trying to invest in their own properties because the system gives them the same unclear process, and ordinary folks just have to take it," Mackie wrote in his letter.
A similar back and forth happened between New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson and the HDLC when Williamson's mother wanted to add a theater and workout room to the third floor of her Garden District mansion. Eventually, the council appealed the HDLC's decision and allowed the construction to begin.