Where the Walls Do Talk
Rice Mill Lofts, an 1892 structure in New Orleans that was once home to a rice processor, has been converted into housing with an unusual amenity: graffiti left over from its derelict days.
The structure is a five-story rental building called Rice Mill Lofts in a joyous bohemian swath of the city known as Bywater. Like the other 68 units, their two-bedroom apartment has tall windows, sealed concrete floors and stark white walls that contrast beautifully with the brawny beams and brick walls of the original 1892 structure, once home to one of the largest rice processors in North America. It also has a more unusual amenity: graffiti left over from the building’s derelict days.
Such are the unconventional selling points at Rice Mill Lofts, where the developer, Sean Cummings, decided to make the graffiti the focus of his $20 million renovation. The decision hasn’t hurt him. For apartments with really big, expressive graffiti, he said, there’s usually a waiting list.
The building is now at full occupancy. But if an apartment should open up and you’re willing to pay the highest per-unit residential rent in New Orleans (from $1,100 for a 930-square-foot studio to $4,000 for a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment), you’ll get not only a chic minimal living space, but also membership in a creative community with its own culture — a culture that emanates from the building itself.
It’s a realm that in some ways mirrors the relaxed ethos of Bywater. The various parts of the building were created with the goal of bringing people together. Renters from wildly different backgrounds hang out and have cocktails on the roof deck, lured by a good sound system and the thrillingly close embrace of the Mississippi River.