I’m a fan of Leonidas. Pronounced (lee-ahn-EYE-dis). Or (lee-AHN-i-dis). Or (lee-AHN-druss), for some reason. Mindy and I were one bad inspection away from calling it home.
For years, you couldn’t talk to a Realtor about Leonidas without the new Lycée Français high school coming up. And, for years, you could drive by the old (Don’t Call me Jason) Priestley Junior High on Leonidas St., and it would look exactly like the last time you drove by. In December of 2019, the mayor showed up and stuck a shovel in some play sand for the groundbreaking. It still was Groundhog Day every time I drove by.
The heavy equipment eventually showed up and I stopped by yesterday to see how it’s going.
Windows! That old building is cleaning up nicely. Lycée Français expects the building to be ready to host students next school year, so change is most definitely coming to Leonidas. Priestley Junior High had been sitting empty and decaying since 1993. Students haven’t been in the school since 1980. (This is an interesting nola.com article from when the school district put Priestley up for sale in 2014.)
Most of that change will be good, but there will be growing pains. Leonidas is pretty quiet, as New Orleans neighborhoods go, when you get lakeside of Oak Street. It will be interesting to see how the neighbors adjust to the added traffic and activity. Next year, the school will house only 9th and 10th grades. Once all of the grades are incorporated, there will be a few hundred students making their way to and from Lycée Français High School. Keep that in mind if you’re looking for homes in Leonidas. Having said that, a dilapidated, empty eyesore will now have a lively pulse. The good from that has got to overwhelm the bad.
What I don’t anticipate is prices soaring in Leonidas as a result of the new campus, which seems to be the general consensus among my real estate cohorts. It seems far-fetched that families are going to move to the neighborhood en masse (French!), just so their kids can walk to high school.
That’s OK, because Leonidas doesn’t need the help. The neighborhood has plenty of other reasons why it’s a smart place to buy a home. There’s easy access to the levee, the streetcar, Palmer Park, and restaurants on Oak, Maple, and Carrollton. Once we get on the other side of this pandemic, walking to the Maple Leaf will mean something again. Additionally, almost all of Leonidas is in the X flood zone. If there’s one pattern emerging in our real estate market, it’s that the high ground is getting more expensive.
Keep an eye on Leonidas. Investors have been for years, leaving lots of new homes as evidence, but there’s still plenty of old charm to go around.
(Go to the Lycée Français site to learn more about the school.)