Squandered Heritage

From preservation to demolition: Another moved house facing bulldozer

Take a good look at this house in the 1700 block of North Villere Street. It might not be around much longer. Photo by Karen Gadbois

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

The city spent $35,450 to move the house, an effort to preserve part of the city’s historic housing stock.

The fate of the house, now in the 1700 block of North Villere Street, was on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee. That body would have to approve the demolition request from Neighborhood Housing Services, the nonprofit that assumed ownership of the house after it was moved.

That committee decided to 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 for the committee 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 committee member 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.

The house originally sat in the 2200 block of Palmyra Street. It was moved as part of an initiative by Mayor Mitch Landrieu to save historic buildings from the wrecking ball. It’s now teetering atop a temporary foundation without a roof.

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

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.

Scores of houses were moved out of the 29 acres that were cleared to make room for the new Veterans Administration and Louisiana State University hospitals.  The house-moving program was billed as the largest of its kind, but it has been riddled with problems.

Another house moved to the Treme neighborhood is also on the Historic District Landmarks Committee agenda requesting permission for demolition.

This post was updated with information from Monday’s meeting and a comment from Neighborhood Housing Services.

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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 for Squandered Heritage. For her work with television reporter Lee Zurik exposing widespread misuse of city recovery funds — which led to guilty pleas in federal court — Gadbois won some of the highest honors in journalism, 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.

  • Karen, it was great to see your story here picked up by the Baton Rouge Advocate. Thus far, I’m pleased with their coverage of New Orleans. Of course, it’s not the same as the old Times-Picayune. We cancelled our subscription to the TP after the powers that be fired half the staff, and the paper became a shell of itself. The Lens helps to fill the gap.

  • Justin Kray

    This story soooo bums me out. The fact that these houses are rotting after all the talk and cost of moving them out of the VA footprint.