City Announces New French Market Corporation, Vieux Carré Commission Directors
NEW ORLEANS – The City of New Orleans announced the selection of Kathleen Turner as the new Executive Director of the French Market Corporation and Bryan D. Block as the new Director of the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC).
Turner was selected unanimously by the French Market Corporation’s Board of Directors during its August meeting. As executive director, Turner will serve in a leadership capacity for all French Market properties, including the Upper Pontalba Building, Washington Artillery Park, Dutch Alley, Latrobe Park, Farmer’s Market, Flea Market, French Market Parking Lot, Farmer’s Market Parking Lot, Annex Parking Lot and Moonwalk. Turner takes over as full-time Executive Director from Jade Brown Russell who had served as Interim Executive Director after Jon Smith resigned in January.
Since 1999, Turner has worked as a General Manager for SMG, an international public facility management company, and oversaw day-to-day operations of a number of local venues. Since 2006, Turner had served as General Manager of the Pontchartrain Convention and Civic Center in Kenner, LA. She was responsible for the day-to-day operations of that multipurpose convention center which presents over 250 events annually with 400,000 visitors each year. She also oversaw that facility’s $7 million post-Hurricane Katrina restoration as well as an additional $4 million in upgrades. Before that, Turner was General Manager of the New Orleans Cultural Center and was responsible for management and operations of the Mahalia Jackson Theatre of Performing Arts and the Morris F.X. Jeff Municipal Auditorium. In Richmond, VA, Turner served as General Manager of the Richmond Coliseum.
“Kathleen has extensive professional experience in facilities management and is a natural choice to lead the French Market Corporation, one of New Orleans’ greatest gems," said Mayor Landrieu. “The French Market has seen tremendous growth in recent years as it has become a premier destination for both residents and visitors alike and I know that Kathleen will embrace this opportunity to further enhance the market.”
With a history dating back over 200 years, the French Market is the nation’s oldest public market and an enduring symbol of New Orleans, City reps said. The vibrant, open-air pavilions of the Market include a farmer’s market with full-service eateries, fresh produce, seafood, baked goods and a flea market where merchants from around the world sell clothing, antiques, art, jewelry and other goods.
The French Market attracts more than 8 million visitors each year and has tenant-generated sales of approximately $30 million.
As executive director, Turner will be responsible for an operation and capital budget of approximately $12 million and a staff of 54 civil service employees.
Kathleen Turner, Executive Director of the French Market Corporation, said, “I am honored and elated to be selected to lead the French Market Corporation. As an enduring symbol of pride and progress for the people of New Orleans, our historic French Market has seen incredible growth in recent years and it is my goal to further enhance its position as a vital component for our city.”
Demetric Mercadel, President of the French Market Corporation Board of Directors, said, “We are excited to have Kathleen on board as the Executive Director of the French Market Corporation. Her extensive background in general management of public facilities will be a huge asset as we continue to grow the French Market.”
Earlier in her career, Turner was a Company Manager for national touring Broadway productions.
Turner holds a degree from Emerson College in theater education. She is First Vice President of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, Longvue House and Gardens and serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the New Orleans Building Corporation.
Block, the new Director of the Vieux Carré Commission (VCC), served as the Interim Director after Lary Hesdorffer retired earlier this year.
“The historic French Quarter is the crown jewel of New Orleans and preserving it is absolutely essential to our city.” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “Bryan Block is a Licensed Preservation Architect with twenty years of experience protecting our City’s historic structures and a natural choice as our fulltime director of the Vieux Carré Commission. I feel confident that under Bryan’s stewardship, we will continue to protect New Orleans’ most historic and precious architectural resources.”
The VCC is a state-enabled City agency that was formally established in 1936 to protect, preserve and maintain the distinct architecture, historic character and zoning integrity of the Vieux Carré, which is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, founded in 1718. The VCC works closely with property owners and design professionals to fine-tune architectural projects to reflect the historic district’s tout ensemble, or the sum total effect of its architecture on its quaint and distinctive character and ambiance. As Director, Block is responsible for administrative duties within the agency.
VCC Director Bryan Block said, “I am honored to have been chosen to lead the Vieux Carré Commission in protecting and preserving New Orleans’ most precious neighborhood, the French Quarter. After working with the VCC and the HDLC for two decades as an architect in the private sector, I am ready to step up and do my part to promote the historical significance of the Vieux Carré and preserve its character as a National Historic Landmark.”
Block is a Licensed Preservation Architect with 20 years of experience working with various aspects of the historic building fabric of New Orleans, including the VCC and Historic District Landmarks Commissions (HDLC.) He has worked on the award-winning restoration of local landmark buildings and has demonstrated leadership as a small business owner.
He went to work for the New Orleans & Central Business District Historic District Landmarks Commissions (HDLC) as a preservation architect in 2015. Before holding that position, Block was a building plans examiner with HDLC from 2012-2015.
Within an area of 90 blocks, the Vieux Carré Historic District incorporates more than 2,000 properties and 4,000 buildings, 15 of which are considered of national architectural and historical significance and approximately 180 of which are deemed of “major architectural and historical significance.” The Vieux Carré is not only a local historic district, but also a National Historic Landmark.
In August 2015, the City adopted new Design Guidelines for the Vieux Carré Historic District to provide guidance for preserving and protecting the district's architectural and historical resources. This comprehensive project was funded and managed by the Vieux Carré Commission Foundation to replace the outdated 1986 Design Guidelines.
The guidelines provide detailed information and illustrations to instruct property owners, design professionals, contractors, VCC staff, and the Vieux Carré Commissioners regarding appropriate exterior changes to properties within the historic district.