Land Use

Billboard house collapses while city debates its demolition

City inspectors have cited the house for 12 code violations. Picky, picky, picky!!

Karen Gadbois

City inspectors have cited the house for 12 code violations. Picky, picky, picky!!

Housing code violations rarely advertize themselves with a giant billboard — not that high-profile messaging is any guarantee of swift enforcement.

A billboard owner applied a year ago for permission to demolish the house — at 2724 N. Claiborne Ave. — that cowers at its feet. Permission was granted but, as the anniversary of that decision draws near, nary a bulldozer has been seen. In fact, the house appears to have metastasized: a new structure now stands in the back yard, sheltering vagrants, neighbors say.   

The house was still more or less intact when photographed in July 2011.

Preservation Resource Center

The house was still more or less intact when photographed in July 2011.

Late last week, inspectors revisited the property — which has collapsed,more or less completely — and duly noted 12 code violations, ranging from missing exterior paint to a “leaking roof.”

The demolition approved back in April 2012 was to have been federally funded. The only glitch was the billboard perched overhead and seemingly fused to the dilapidated structure.

The owner of the house is listed on city records as  “Industrial Outdoor Display,” and according to the assessor’s website the property has a hefty $17,000 in fines and fees attached to it.  

At the year-ago hearing, the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee, which considers demolition requests, was approached, not by Industrial Outdoor Display, but by a representative of CBS Outdoor, the Metairie company that leases the advertising space. He expressed concern for the well-being of the billboard and requested that the city sign a letter promising not to damage it during demolition of the house.  

The relationship between Industrial Outdoor Display and CBS Outdoor was not clear.  

Vagrants dwell in a shack they have built on the property, neighbors say.

Karen Gadbois

Vagrants dwell in a shack they have built on the property, neighbors say.

But take heart! A year later the city is close to reaching an agreement with CBS Outdoor.  

According to Kamblum Buckner, communications manager with the city, “the [demolition] contractor and billboard owner are hashing out a hold-harmless letter.” The discussions, which are being facilitated by the code-enforcement department, should be finished this week, he said.  

In the meantime, squatters have stripped construction materials from the collapsing house and used them to build a shed-like home out back, neighbors say.   

The city did not respond to questions about the occupied rear building. Nor did CBS Outdoor return calls seeking to determine who their landlord, Industrial Outdoor Display — the party that owes the city $17,000 in liens — might be.

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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.

  • How can you not appreciate the ridiculousness?

    It’s equally ridiculous that I think the reconstructed house is cute, has potential

  • BigAl1825

    Billboards should be illegal. They are a distraction to drivers and a blight on this city.

  • Before looking at fines, why not check to see how much this property pays annually in property tax? at and you will see it’s not giving any info.

    Regardless, with the homestead exemption, it’s probably next to nothing that this owner pays per year.

    Also does anyone know if the fines and penalties can easily be reduced, voided, etc by a judge?

  • anonymous bosch

    Dear Ms. Gadbois, thank you for your continuing coverage of this
    blighted property. I am writing about a concern i had with your most
    recent article on 2724 n claiborne. I am the person who has built the
    outbuilding which was mentioned in the article, and i was a bit offended
    that my cabin was portrayed as a metastasised cancer shack. Im a
    craftsman by trade, and im proud of my humble work, as you yourself must
    be proud of your work.

    I should not be cast as part of the problem. I am aiming to present
    a tidy residence that is not a nuisance to my neighbors. I also intend
    to keep my squat off the radar, for my own security, and out of
    deference to the neighborhood. before beginning the project i had built a
    8 ft. tall wooden privacy fence that was damaged during hurricane
    isaac. i have begun to rebuild a new one.

    Also i feel that minorities have been disrespected. People with
    outsider lifestyles such as “vagrants” or “squatters” are not the cause
    of blight. Innocent people should not be likened to unsavory characters
    to sensationalize a story.

    Again i thank you for your ongoing efforts, and i ask you to please
    respect my privacy. I would be happy to answer any questions that
    wouldnt impicate myself or harm the security of my illicit cabin that i
    have worked very hard on.

    Sincerely, Annonymous