Land Use

Demolition of St. Charles Avenue mansion debated and deferred

A rendering of the proposed replacement for the old mansion at St. Charles and Valence.

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.

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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.

  • OldRegularsLiveOn

    Why can’t these people get their story straight?

    First it was Crescent Road LLC out of Chicago. Elrick Williams and Paula Williams of Williams Holding Group on the Miracle Mile in Chicago.

    Now it’s reported here that it is Jack Ryan (of?…) but the name on the graphic is St. Charles Avenue Properties LLC which is Betty M. Schmitt and Janette M. Schmitt of Metairie. Janette M. Schmitt is/was related to Lawrence Kornman.

    The “M” is for Macheca.

    Guess who the Machecas are and were and who they are married to now. Think City Hall.

    Look at the names here. The Kornmans are in business on the west bank with someone who happens to live on St Charles Avenue as well.

    So where does Jack Ryan come in again?

  • Brad

    The listed property owner is Crescent Road LLC, which is a manager-managed LLC, managed by Elrick Williams and Lynai Jones.

    I’m guessing the member of Crescent Road is this Jack Ryan fellow, and St. Charles Avenue Properties might just be a developer.

    Hey, the Lens – is this about right?

  • Karen Gadbois

    Mr. Ryan came before the committee to request permission to demolish the house in anticipation of purchasing the property from Crescent Road.

    St. Charles Properties as an entity was never mentioned other than on the graphic.

  • OldRegularsLiveOn

    Brad look up Crescent Road LLC, it is out of Chicago, no New Orleans.

    Karen, than you and thank you for all your work, but why does St. Charles Avenue Properties LLC appear on the graphic?

    Confusion of public property ownership in our area is a common thing and it is often purposeful (often for political reasons).

    Correction on my note above: I said “Janette M. Schmitt” but that should be Janette M. Kornman of Metairie (DeLimon) and Janette M. Kornman is/was related to Lawrence Kornman.

  • Karen Gadbois

    There was no mention made of the LLC listed on the graphic. Since the property has not yet been sold perhaps it is an assumption on the part of the prospective buyer.

    Perhaps those questions will be answered at the council appeal level should they decide to go that route.

  • OldRegularsLiveOn

    Really, when do the citizens start to ask.

    Look up the properties that “St Charles Ave Properties” owns.

    1403, 1411, 1415, 1421, 1429 St Charles (with 1614, 1618, 1620, 1624 Thalia, & 1619, 1621, 1627 Melpomene): This is the Lake side of St Charles, the block with Miako Sushi, Daquiri Place Cafe, Office Depot, a Walgreens, and the gaping parking lots (plural) in between. What was there before?

    That’s 12 properties. Take a look at the assessments at these properties on the Orleans assessors site: all are shown as being transferred on 7/18/89 for “$0”. And look at their current land and business values. Go ahead and explain how those are valued properly while so many Orleanians are in line suffering the appeals “process.”

    And these are the folks whose company name, “St Charles Avenue Properties LLC”, just happens to appear on the graphic. Yeah, maybe someone should ask.