Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

The St. Roch Market

June 5, 2010

Address: 2381 St. Claude Ave.
City of New Orleans
OPBOA Assessed Property Value: $650,000
Unoccupied Since: 2005
Damage Assessment: Unknown
Status: Planning Stages of City-funded Redevelopment

The St. Roch Market was built in 1875 as part of the City of New Orleans’ extensive system of public, open-air markets. By the 1930s, the building was crumbling, and the city slated it for demolition. However, after widespread public outcry and intensive lobbying on the part of Faubourg St. Roch residents, the building was remodeled under the WPA. It was during this period that the market was retrofitted with then-modern accommodations, including refrigeration and plumbing. In the period immediately following WWII, the public market system was disbanded, with only the French Market and the St. Roch Market (again, because of resident support) remaining. It was also during this period that the market was fully enclosed, and began to operate under private management. In the years leading up to Katrina, the market was operated by a family of Chinese immigrants, who converted a portion of the market into a restaurant-style eatery.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded the market, causing structural damage and leaving it shuttered. As city property, the onus has been on the Office of Recovery Management to rehabilitate the market. ORM, in turn, has contracted the project management to MWH, a planning firm that has recently been the focus of some controversy regarding the misuse of the city’s revolver fund (read more hereand here). In early 2009, both ORM and MWH, along with the architect in charge of the project, Lee Ledbetter and Associates, held a series of public hearings to discuss their plans for the markets with area residents. The plans, however, are quite gaunt. They call for the redevelop of the site as a “white box,” essentially an empty space, the use of which will be determined by an unidentified third party tenant. The revelation of this led to some controversy at one 2009 public hearing, with a few St. Roch residents expressing concern that its use would be dictated by more affluent residents of the Bywater and Marigny. At one point, a resident even interrupted the MWH representative, saying “if your from St. Roch, raise your hand,” at which only a third of those in attendance did.

More pressing, perhaps, than the projects eventual use, is the possibility that the city does not yet have all the funding needed to complete the project. According to an MWH memo, the current project budget is $3,000,000, while the current available funding is only $651,972, leaving a funding gap of $2,348,028. The document goes on to list $1,000,000 worth of CDBG funding and over a million more in potential FEMA reimbursements that it hopes to use as gap funding. Yet, it lists the likelihood of reimbursement for the bulk of the FEMA funding as only 70%. Regardless, the project has been approved for its full budget, and the same document gives 5/27/2011 as the date of completion, with 5/27/2010, a year earlies, as the start date for construction. However, according to one active neighborhood member, ORM recently moved the date back to December, to which he added, “[I’m] not holding my breath.”



The Bohn Zone (Mid-City)

May 11, 2010

Addresses: 401 N. Carrollton Ave.
Owner: Victory Real Estate Investments, LLC d.b.a. Mid-City Carrollton Investors, LLC
OPBOA Assessed Property Value: $3,695,100
Unoccupied Since: 2005
Damage Assessment: Unknown
Status: No Current Code Violations

While the lots around it changed hands numerous times through the end of the 19th century, the first record in the New Orleans Real Estate Office for 401 N. Carrollton Ave is dated December 26, 1903. It is not an original document, but a form filled out in the last couple of decades reflecting information taken from an act of sale for which they do not have a copy. It shows that on that date, the New Orleans Terminal Company acquired the property, and began laying track there. As the acquisition was only two years after the company’s founding in 1902, it is possible that the lot was part of their first set of tracks, running from New Orleans to Chalmette. Regardless, the remnants of the line can still be seen on the properties just west of the 401 Carrollton Ave. lot, as well as along St. Louis St, intermittently, all the way to the Tremé.

The tracks were still there the next time the property changed hands, almost a hundred years later, in 1995. It was in this year that Romerebo, Inc. the company behind the Bohn Zone, a chain of car dealerships across the metro area. Bobby Bohn was the owner at the time and, once the tracks were cleared, he used a loan from Ford to build the dealership that still sits vacant on the lot.

Bobby no longer works at the Bohn Zone and, according to his brother, who now runs the operation, is difficult to get in touch with. However, he was still in charge during the storm, when according to some f the sales staff, they lost their entire stock of cars at their Mid-City location to over six feet of water. Unfortunately, they were neither they nor Bobby’s brother were able to speak to efforts by the Bohn’s to rebuild the store. To try and infer from a trip to the location: the interior does appear to have undergone some renovation, though the tipped over port-o-potty and the lack of any filed final inspections implies that work hasn’t been going on for some time.

In addition, in 2007, the property was sold to Victory Real Estate Investors, a Georgia company doing business under the name Mid-City Carrollton Investors, LLC, as well as a number of other similar names in Orleans Parish, for $8.5 Million. Along with the Bohn Zone, Victory purchased a number of other properties, stretching from Solomon St. to Jefferson Davis Pkwy, most notably, the properties across the street that were redevelop as a Rouses and Home Depot, and the old Lindy Boggs Medical Center.

While, according to a Times-Picayune article, their initial plans for the properties were retail and residential development, it seems that a tanking real estate market made finding investors or occupants difficult. In addition, there was some dispute with the neighborhood as to the property’s final use. According to Jennifer Farwell, president of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, they were initially planning on putting in a Wal-Mart, which the neighborhood opposed, largely on the grounds that Victory was unreceptive to working or even communicating with the MCNO as they develop their plans. City records show that, in 2008, Victory successfully applied for a demolition permit for the property, though two years later, the property is still standing. Victory has also been reluctant to answer or return any phone calls regarding the property, though the Vice-President’s secretary asked if our phone calls were about leasing, the times someone answered the phone. The property is also still listed on their website, under the dropdown menu for development.


Scottish Rite Masonic Temple Building

April 15, 2010

Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

Address: 3200 St Bernard Avenue

Owner: Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree Freemasons (Scottish Rite)

Assessed Property Value: $210,300

Unoccupied since: August 2005

Damage Assessment: Unavailable

Status: No code enforcement issues at this time

According to the initial bill of sale, the plot of land between St Bernard Avenue on its north side, Florida St. to its west, Frey St. to its east and a US. Post office parking lot to its south was first surveyed and purchased in 1953 as part of the Grillot subdivision.  However, it wasn’t until a 1962 sale by the New Orleans Housing Mart (who had purchased the property in 1958) that the municipal number 3200 St. Bernard Avenue was included in any legal documents, implying that some version of the massive pink building still on the lot was constructed around that time.  After the 1962 sale, the property changed hands three more times. In 1963, it was acquired by Leon S. Poirier who, in 1967, sold it to the Young Women’s Christian Association.  In 1973, it was purchased by the Supreme Council of the 33rd degree Freemasons, who still own it today.

Arthur Morrell's Old Office

Arthur Morrell's Old Office

The building is four stories tall, and comprised of a series of smaller suites and offices. One of these was the local legislative office of Arthur Morrell, when he was the state representative of District 97.  His name is still visible, along with numerous other tenants, on the doors of the first floor suites.

While no damage report exists with the city (which is not uncommon, even for buildings that were damaged by Katrina) according to the local Mason chapter representative, the building was severely damaged during the storm.  It has since been boarded up and gutted, and some new studs are visible through the windows on the first floor.  When I called the local chapter, I was given a number for the person allegedly in charge of the renovations.  The number did not work.  According to the city’s fast track permitting database, the only permit successfully pulled was for a temporary power pole in 2007.  The pole is still there, though after multiple visits to the site, there are no signs of current renovation, and no other permits have been pulled.

However, the small wooden annex on the second floor has working lights, and there are folding chairs lined up in some of the rooms, signs that the building, though still unrenovated, is being used.  Despite this, after calling the local chapter of the Scottish Rite, another local Mason chapter and the national office of the Scottish Rite, I still have not been able to confirm that any of these groups owns the building.


The Dixie Brewery

April 13, 2010

From Tulane Ave

Address: 2401 Tulane Ave. New Orleans, LA 70117

Current Owners: Joe Bruno and Kendra Bruno

Unoccupied Since: August 2005

Property Value: $1,387,100

Damage Assessment: Unavailable

Status: Unknown

The Dixie Brewery building was built in 1907 for $85,000 by Valentine Merz.  The six story low rise’s purpose was to brew, store, and distribute what is present day Dixie Beer.   During prohibition, the brewery manufactured and distributed non-alcoholic beer until 1933.  When prohibition ended, Dixie Beer eventually reached the national market and gained an iconic status for the city of New Orleans.

The current owners purchased the building in 1986 and continued to produce and market the product until August 2005, when the events of Hurricane Katrina ravaged the property.

The brewing equipment was devastated beyond repair from flooding, and the property suffered significant damage.

Much of the delay in renovations can be attributed to the building’s location within the VA Hospital footprint.  With the potential threat of being demolished to make way for the hospital’s expansive campus, plans for rebuilding have been put on hold.  However, the Historic District Landmarks Committee of New Orleans has nominated the building as a local landmark, which can offer protective reasoning against its demolition.

Currently, Dixie Beer is being brewed and distributed in Monroe, WI and supplies a smaller national market from its pre-Katrina operations.


The Louisiana Family Council and L. C. Frank & Son Service Station

April 7, 2010

Address: 4722 Earhart Blvd and 1429 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy

Owner: Life-Line Community Development/Jill Dapremont

Assessed Property Value: $273,200

Unoccupied since: August 2005 (4722 Earhart Blvd) unknown (1429 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy)

Damage Assessment: Unavailable

Status: Approved for Demolition

1429 Jefferson Davis Pkwy

1429 Jefferson Davis Pkwy

While two distinct addresses, the buildings located at 4722 Earhart Blvd and 1429 S. Jefferson Davis Pkwy sit on the same municipal lot, have the same owner and are assessed as a single property.  The property on 4722 Earhart (the absent façade of which is pictured above) appears to have had a simple, utilitarian design, while the property on Jefferson Davis, a service station dating from the 1950s, has a distinct, “Streamline Moderne” style.

4722 Earhart Blvd.

The lot was first developed in 1925, when a construction company bought land on either side of the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad tracks (run just 27 years prior).  The company owned the property until 1954, when the City of New Orleans acquired it in order to relocate the rail line and construct Earhart Blvd.  That same year, a man named Martin L. Frank was given the property in exchange for another lot in Earhart’s path. With the property, he was given the right to construct a service station and, in 1959, he did, signing a 99-year lease with Sidney Stanfield, the station’s operator.

4722 Earhart Blvd

4722 Earhart Blvd

In 2001, Martin’s grandson, Lawrence M. Frank, lost the property to American General Financial Services to settle a $131,000 debt.  That same year, American General filed the paperwork to annul Mr. Stanfield’s 99-year lease.  Less than a year later, the building was sold for $200,000 to the Life-Line Community Development Corporation.  Later that year, they opened the Louisiana Family Council on the first floor, to provide family counseling and wellness classes to the neighborhood.

However, according to Jill Dapremont, Life-Line’s chairperson just before Katrina, the CDC was turned down by the city for a grant to renovate the rest of the building.  Less than a year later, Katrina hit, and Life-Line did not have the funding to repair.  Ms. Dapremont now lives in Memphis, where she was displaced after the storm.  She told the blight blog that were still members of the organization in New Orleans, though she had no contact information.  An Internet search for the organization produced only a photo from when the building’s façade was ripped off by wind during Gustav.

On July 14, 2009, the two properties were included in one of the city’s mass code enforcement hearings.  According to the city’s website.  None of the owners showed up at the hearing, and the city designated the building a public nuisance. On March 1, 2010, the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee approved the property for demolition.

1429 Jefferson Davis Pkwy

1429 Jefferson Davis Pkwy