The Downtowner Motel

Address: 2222 Tulane Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119

Current Owners: Saints Anita and Rene, LLC

Unoccupied Since: At least 2002

Property Value: $467,000

Damage Assessment: Unavailable

Status: Guilty of Code Violation (before fire)

On April 4, 2010, around 8 o’clock, a fire started in the motel on the corner of Tulane Ave. and South Galvez St.   It took three hours and four fire engines to put out the blaze and, in the process, a large portion of Mid-City and the Tremé lost power.  Video and a more detailed account of the incident can be found here.

The building sits on land that was initially purchased for the construction of a series of single-family homes; lots individually purchased starting in 1908 and ending some time in the late 1940s.  Not long after the final residential tract was purchased, developers began acquiring the lots, assembling them for sale as a series of larger commercial properties.  In 1972, two smaller hotel companies sold their two smaller tracks of land (six and half lots in all) to Young Properties, Inc.  While one cannot be certain, it is likely that the current building that sits on the lot today was constructed during this period, as it is the first time on record when all of the lots were sold together.  A few years later, Young Properties sold it to Innkeepers Choice.

After being sold to Innkeepers Choice, the building seemed to lose profitability.  In March of 1987, Innkeepers Choice lost it in a foreclose to Pioneers Bank and Trust, who immediately sold it to 2222 Tulane Ave, Inc.  In August, 2222 Tulane sold it to Continental Properties.  In 2002, Continental Properties declared bankruptcy and the Motel was acquired by the Saints Anita and Rene, LLC for $650,000.  The same company owns the motel today.

It is unclear when the property first became abandoned.  However, according Fred Hayes, an architect with Hayes Architecture, who reports having done some preliminary research for a developer who wanted to turn the property into condos in early 2005, the building had been vacant for some time.  “The plumbing and electrical had all been ripped out, probably by people who were staying their illegally,” he told the Blight Blog, “so to redevelop it you would have had to have redone all of that.”  According to Mr. Hayes, the current owners wanted too much, and Tulane Avenue was too economically depressed to make the investment profitable, so the project was put on hold, indefinitely.

On March 3, 2009, the building was reviewed during one of the city’s mass code enforcement hearings.  The property owners did not show up, the building was found in violation of city code, and a $500 fine was levied.  Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because of other neglect, the Assessors’ office dropped the properties value by $151,150 from 2009-2010.  Despite this, a few days after the judgment, Mitchell Crusto, a lawyer representing the LLC that owns the property, applied for and received a permit from the city to secure the property. While this would have brought the building up to city standards for storm damage properties, there were no signs of any measures having been taken to secure the property before the fire.

The Blight Blog has contacted Mr. Crusto, who reported that, “The property is under contract for sale to be used as a homeless shelter development and is pending a City use permit.”  He could not be reached for further comment, or to address any complications that the fire may have caused.  There is no application for a city use permit on file at city hall for the Tulane Ave. property.

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