News Roundup

Oct 17 2012

NEW ORLEANS — A second house moved to make way for a massive hospital complex in Lower Mid-City is being considered for demolition after standing open to the elements for months.

Seventy-one houses were moved out of the 29 acres that were cleared to make room for the new Veterans Administration and Louisiana State University hospitals. But most of the houses haven’t fared well in their new locations, where they have remained open to the elements.

In June, a nonprofit requested permission to demolish one of the houses, which had deteriorated after sitting without a roof for more than a year. The nonprofit backtracked after local media started asking questions. The fate of the house, which cost the city $35,000 to move, is still uncertain.

Another house got a new roof, but nothing else, for two years. Hurricane Isaac did what the bulldozers didn’t, knocking down the shotgun double with its high winds.

The latest house originally sat in the 2200 block of Palmyra Street. It’s now teetering atop a temporary foundation, without a roof, on the 1700 block of North Villere Street.

Neighborhood Housing Services, the nonprofit that assumed ownership of the house after it was moved, applied for a demolition permit from the city. The request went before the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee on Monday, but the committee put off its decision for two weeks because no one from Neighborhood Housing Services showed up at the meeting.

Committee member Hillary Carrere, demolition coordinator for the city of New Orleans, pushed to approve the demolition in spite of the nonprofit’s absence, saying that the group was not a “fly-by-night” organization and that the house is in really bad shape.

But Lillian McNee, the representative from the city’s Historic District Landmarks office, moved to defer the issue because no one was there to explain how the house ended up in its current condition.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni said in an email that the organization that moved the houses, Builders of Hope, put the house in the wrong place. Neighborhood Housing Services has been waiting for Builders of Hope to correct the problem before it put on a new roof and secured the house, he said.

Lauren Anderson, chief executive officer of Neighborhood Housing Services, said that the group has been unsuccessful in getting Builders of Hope to correct the problem.

The structure took a beating in Isaac, Berni said, and the city’s Code Enforcement inspectors determined that the house fit into the “imminent danger of collapse” category. That allows the city to demolish it without review, if necessary.

It’s not clear how much money the city spent to move the house. Nor is it clear whether the city will now shoulder the cost of razing the structure.

Anderson said she expects that her nonprofit “will have to shoulder the cost of demolition.”

All of the 71 houses were stripped of their roofs, and some were shorn of their backs and second floors, in order to navigate them through the city and save money on moving costs.

The city was criticized by the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in August 2011 for how it handled the house-moving project. Reid Nelson, director of the Office of Federal Agency Programs, wrote that the homes, “whose removal from the Medical Center Site was intended to preserve them, are now lying unused and open to the elements, deteriorating by neglect and creating health and safety hazards to the residents.”

When the houses were moved, the plan was to give them to housing nonprofits and help them pay for renovations.

“We had the land, and they were looking for places to move these houses,” said Sister Vera Butler, who works with the Tulane/Canal Neighborhood Development Corporation, which took ownership of the house that collapsed during Isaac.

The houses arrived in a “frail” state, Butler said. The city had told the nonprofit that it would find money to help renovate the houses, but “that hasn’t happened.”

The city recently announced that it is seeking proposals to renovate the structures. The deadline for proposals is Oct. 29.

This story was published in cooperation with The Lens, a nonprofit news site serving New Orleans.

Source: The Advocate

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