The rear of the retail mall remains a work in progress. Credit: Karen Gadbois

The still-shuttered Lake Terrace Shopping Center has been the subject of multiple meetings, blight hearings and teeth gnashing in Gentilly.

With the 2009 award of $250,000 in taxpayer funds through the city’s Economic Development Fund, neighbors looked forward to commercial retail development. The vacant strip mall occupies a high-profile corner, at Robert E. Lee Boulevard and Paris Avenue.

DMK Acquisitions and Properties purchased the  property in April 2007 for $1.35 million and went on to secure the $250,000 in economic development funding from the Nagin administration.

Because of the ongoing problems with the project, the city withheld the last payment, putting the total payout at $225,000. The last payment of $62,500 was sent in May 2010.*

Six months later, and again the following May, the property’s owners were cited for blight.

According to court documents, earlier this month DMK principal Kenneth Charity appeared before 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Rosemary Ledet. Charity blamed the delay on “red tape” and said he planned to get the project done.

The front of the mall is sheathed in Tyvek.
The front of the mall is sheathed in Tyvek. Credit: Karen Gadbois

Neighbors are not buying it. “We are the hostages,” said attorney Rodger Wheaton in an email to The Lens, suggesting that Charity is angling for additional taxpayer funding to complete the project. Part of DMK’s strategy is to “wear down the neighbors,” Wheaton said.

Karen Parsons, president of the Oak Park Civic Association, has long monitored the project. “We are tremendously relieved that the 4th Circuit Court found Mr. Charity’s appeal without the slightest merit,” she said. Parsons added that she hopes this decision “will set a precedent for similar blighted commercial sites” throughout the city.

On a recent visit to the site the front of the complex was fenced and wrapped with Tyvek, but the back told a different story: doors open to the elements and a crumbling wall.

According to Tyler Gamble, spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, DMK has paid over $4,000 in blight judgments. “We fully intend to continue our enforcement efforts until this property is brought into compliance,” Gamble said in an email.

With the recent Fourth Circuit ruling against DMK, the city is “considering any and all legal remedies available with respect to the property, including but not limited to expropriation, lien foreclosure or demolition, he added.

*Correction: The original version of this story said the city’s final payment was issued in May 2011, but it was actually May 2010. (Sept. 30, 2013)

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...