An architect's rendering shows the proposed replacement for the mansion at St. Charles Avenue and Valence Street.

A request to demolish the faded St. Charles mansion at the southwest corner of Valence Street was heard before the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee this week. And the result, after much debate pro and con: limbo.

The demolition is sought by Jack Ryan, who has an option to purchase the property and wants to build a single-family residence there. He presented the committee with an architect’s sketch of the house he envisions.

Demolition is on hold. photo: Karen Gadbois

Developer John Schroeder spoke in favor of demolition. He said the house was constructed in the 1880’s and renovated in the 1920’s but over time had been chopped into a warren of small apartments. The house is currently vacant, unless you count an “infestation of 65-85 rats that live there now,” Schroeder said

Ted LeClercq, president of the St. Charles Avenue Association, said the organization “cares deeply” about what happens on the famous boulevard and referred to another high-profile demolition—at the corner of Octavia—as an example of what the organization found acceptable, but only after “months-long discussions.”

“We have had nothing like that here,” LeClercq said, referring to Ryan’s application. An application to “demolish with complete freedom” and then rebuild with limited review was something the organization cannot support, he said, urging the committee either to defer the application or deny it outright.

Deferral would be “justice denied” countered neighbor John Houghtaling. Houghtaling, who lives across the street, said he has spent over $10 million on the purchase and renovation of his house and fully supports Ryan’s demolition request.

Neighbor John Ernst also spoke in favor of demolition. Citing his own record as a preservationist—he is a former president of the St. Charles Avenue Association—he said he was “embarrassed” that the organization would oppose Ryan’s plans.

Committee member Lily McNee representing the Historic District Landmarks Commission said she felt it was “only fair” that the neighborhood organizations ask to see more definitive plans for the site.

A vote to defer was taken and failed to pass, another motion to demolish also failed, creating a de facto denial.

Ryan is expected to appeal to City Council.

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.