Squandered Heritage

Xavier rankles Gert Town neighbors with demolition plans


At the June 4 public hearing of the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee, often known by the more familiar abbreviation of NCDC (only because it sounds an awful lot like the band AC/DC), at least one committee member expressed concerns about the mission of the committee and about the conservation of one particular neighborhood located next to Xavier University.

Xavier presented plans to demolish 14 houses in the Gert Town neighborhood as it continues to develop its convocation center and as the university plans to build several tennis courts.

At least a dozen of the properties approved for demolition at the hearing are located adjacent to the new convocation center, which is under construction. Plans are to turn those spaces into parking lots.

According to the plans presented to the committee by Xavier representatives, three privately owned houses are within the block.

None of the property owners who will be surrounded by a paved-surface parking lot was present to comment.

This building on South Genois Street has avoided demolition for now.

This parking lot represents an even greater expansion into the Gert Town community, which is located across a canal from the main campus.

Members of the community expressed frustration with what they perceived as lack of focus on the community most heavily impacted by the expansion plans.

The Rev. Lois DeJean, a longtime community activist in the area, challenged Xavier to engage the community by addressing long-term needs of the low-income neighborhood and not just buying blighted properties to demolish them.

Xavier and the surrounding community have long experienced tensions over expansion plans.

Xavier University President Norman Francis has expressed frustration in the past with long-held perceptions within the community that Xavier will force them out.

In a 2011 interview in Xavier’s student newspaper, Francis contended that, although Xavier acquired property on the open market before and after Katrina, “We haven’t forced a soul out.”

Xavier’s plans for razing buildings didn’t all go unchallenged.

Also included in the application for demolition were two other properties that Xavier owns on South Telemachus and South Genois streets.

Plans for demolishing the Genois property were denied.

Among the buildings the university has purchased is the former Club RockaFella, the scene of a 2008 killing.

During the hearing, perennial candidate Norbert Rome also rose to address the committee, although it wasn’t obvious what his concerns were.


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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • Aff

    It’s been almost SEVEN (7) YEARS since Hurricane Katrina and the POOR are NOT coming back to that neighborhood, Gert Town.

    The owners/landlords of almost all of the houses in Gert Town left LONG AGO and could care less what happens as long as they get their Section 8 rent check mailed to them in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, etc to whoever some social worker or non-profit charity worker can find.

    Go down a few more blocks and you had a multiple shooting during daylight at around Broad and Washington less than a year ago where Mayor Landrieu came out to see.

    You see that Rev. Lois DeJean, a longtime community activist in the area. What good has this activist really done before, during and after Hurricane Katrina? Has it even worked? Clearly it hasn’t. And this person needs to pool his/her resources and find some other problem to solve as this person hasn’t convinced anyone to return after Hurricane Katrina, so why should they now?

    Lastly, why would you want to house the POOR with the remaining POOR and Section 8s in Gert Town?