Martin Wine Cellars

Addresses:
3727 Baronne St.
3801 Baronne St.
3805 Baronne St.
3809 Baronne St.
3827 Baronne St.
3901 Baronne St.
3909 Baronne St.
1818 Peniston St.
Owner:
Martin Wine Sellers (Martin Orleans Properties, LLC), except 3727 Baronne (owned by Cedric and Pamela Martin)
OPBOA Assessed Property Value (cumulative): $736,460
Unoccupied Since: 2005 (store, warehouse and Bicycle Club) 2008-09 (rental units scheduled for demolition)
Damage Assessment: Unavailable
Status: Undergoing plans for renovation

Cedric Martin’s father started Martin Wine Cellars in 1946 as a small store on the corner of Baronne and General Taylor. In 1969, they expanded their operations, purchasing all of the properties on the lake side of Baronne’s 3800 block. While many of the properties stayed residential and occupied through Katrina and even after, the property at 3827 was used as a store front, and the 3809 property was used for parking. While Mr. Martin began running the store in the late 80s, his father stayed involved, coming into the store everyday until he died.

The buildings took only two feet of water during Katrina, but the restaurant and store were looted, and the food sat unrefrigerated and for over two months, further compounding mold and water damage. In addition to this loss, the first floor offices of Martin Wine Cellar’s warehouse on Bienville were completely flooded, and the majority of their wine stock was lost to heat damage. With minor repairs, Mr. Martin was able to rent the residential properties. The restaurant and store, on the other hand, required substantial work before they could be reopened.

It has been five years since Katrina, and only within the last year has Mr. Martin been able to begin taking steps to reopen his store and put his commercial properties back into use. When asked why he waited, Mr. Martin explained that, more important than reoccupying these properties, he had to rebuild his business. For Mr. Martin, this required opening two new locations away from Katrina’s worst damage, one in Madeville, one in Baton Rouge and a third in New Orleans, but in a flood free property on Magazine St. “I had to wait until my economic situation was better and stronger before I could even consider it,” he told the Blight Blog.

Now, Martin Wine Cellars is profitable enough that Cedric has begun taking the initial steps to reclaim the space where his family’s business began. He phased out tenants from his residential properties, and applied for permits for demolition, a process that has taken some time.

On February 1, 2010, he went before the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee to apply for a permit to demolish the above properties, including 3727 Baronne, a property he had recently purchased to tear down and use as parking (along with rear portions of the 3800 block properties). General support was shown for the demolition of the 3727 property because, as one neighbor noted, “It is in especially bad condition, and everyone in the immediate area would like to see the building removed,” and his application for demolition was approved.

3805-07 Baronne, the property Mr. Martin has been petitioned to save

Reactions were less uniform to his request to tear down the properties on the Baronne’s 3800 block. Neighbors expressed some concern about some of the buildings not being preserved, especially the “Bicycle Club” building located at 3901 Baronne. However, all were very supportive of Mr. Martin reopening, and were therefore reluctant to stand in the way. The NCDC agreed to differ his application until March 3rd. In this same meeting, Mr. Martin confirmed that he planned to work with the Preservation Resource Center to salvage any historic or reusable materials from the demolitions. The full NCDC meeting summary for February 1st can be found here .

At the March 1st meeting, Mr. Martin was approved to demolish everything but the “Bicycle Club” located at 3901 Baronne St. However, his application for 3801 Baronne was denied, and a decision on 3805-7 Baronne was postponed by two weeks. While this time the Delachaise Neighborhood Association expressed full and unanimous support, a neighbor, Sara Adkins, presented a 25-signature petition in opposition to the proposed demolition. The full NCDC report for March 1st can be read here .

The side of 3727 Baronne, where deconstruction by the Preservation Resource Center has already begun.

When Mr. Martin spoke with us, the issue of 3805-07 Baronne St. had not yet been fully resolved. Mr. Martin reported that, to appease those who did not want all of the properties torn down, he agreed to donate 3805-07 Baronne St. to a neighbor. However, the woman who initial was to receive the property recently suffered a stroke, delaying the process.

Despite these delays, Mr. Martin expressed confidence that, sooner rather than later, work would begin, and his family’s business would return to where it began, at the corner of General Taylor and Baronne.

(To learn more about the permitting process for demolitions in New Orleans, you can go here .)

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