Cindy Kueffer, who runs a bed and breakfast across the street, sees a pattern behind the sudden and startling collapse yesterday of two vintage doubles in the city’s Treme neighborhood.
She blames Providence Community Housing, the owner of the ruined properties, and says several other Providence holdings have been dogged by problems that suggest poor management. The mission of the housing non-profit is to “foster healthy, diverse and vibrant communities by developing, operating and advocating for mixed-income housing.” Based on their track record in Treme, Kueffer contends what is happening is just the opposite: Given botched management, “our housing stock is dwindling,” says Kueffer, a 20-year resident of her block.
She assumes Wednesday’s mid-morning collapse stemmed from the partial dismantling of the houses. “Three weeks ago a contractor took all the bricks from the fireplaces and bundled them up on a palette and took them out of here,” Kueffer said.
Questioned about the cause of the collapse, Andreanecia Morris, Providence Community Housing’s vice president of homeownership and community development, deferred to the city, which she said was investigating, though she refused to say which public official was in charge of the probe.
Why the secrecy, we wondered. So we called the city. According to city spokesman Tyler Gamble, there is no investigation underway. Nor has a report been prepared by code enforcement personnel.
The properties — 1312-1314 and 1316-1318 Gov. Nicholls St.* — were cited repeatedly for blight in the past year, city records show. Kueffer said they have been left “open to the elements for years.” From time to time Providence would send over a crew to board them up, only to have vandals break in again. A fire broke out last July injuring a firefighter.
Yesterday’s collapse injured four workers.
Late yesterday afternoon bulldozers were on the site pushing down the portions of the houses that had not yet fallen, and passersby were making off with salvageable materials, Kueffer said.
Morris refused to say whether her organization planned to salvage what remains.
The houses were part of a package of properties purchased in 2007 for $1.2 million from Treme Cottages Inc., a nonprofit run by businessman and political insider Stan “Pampy” Barre, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison in 2008 for his part in a City Hall corruption scandal dating to the administration of Mayor Marc Morial.
Providence also owns a high-profile Treme property at 1601 Dumaine Street that has been before the Historic District Landmarks Commission for issues ranging from ignored deterioration (“demolition by neglect”) to requests for demolition.
The Dumaine Street property was moved from the hospital footprint and was recently awarded repair funds by the city.
While Kueffer laments the loss of the vintage houses that stood across the street from her place, she dreads what might replace them: “Will they (Providence) be allowed to build whatever they want?”
“We have had it with Providence” in this neighborhood, she adds.
The original plan for the properties according to Morris was to rehabilitate them as offsite rentals, as called for by the blueprint for Fauborg Lafitte public housing overhaul.
Morris says Providence has completed 47 units to date. The Lafitte plan, which includes a remake of the Lafitte project, calls for the nonprofit to develop a total of 200 offsite units in a partnership with Enterprise, another housing nonprofit.
*An early version of this article misstated the street name where the doubles stood.