A judge has temporarily stopped the city from seizing and selling the Lake Terrace Shopping Center, a strip mall on Robert E. Boulevard that has sat empty since Hurricane Katrina.

Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson, filling in for Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Clare Jupiter earlier this month, signed a temporary restraining order stopping the city from seizing the property, at the request of the owner, DMK Acquisitions.

As The Lens reported in its first published investigation in 2010, DMK, headed by Kenneth Charity, received public money to restore the shopping center in 2009 and 2010 with little progress to show for it. Total city money invested in the stalled project came to $225,000, The Lens later reported.

In March, the city of New Orleans was ready to take final action on the troubled site. During a presentation on the city’s blight-eradication efforts that month, Councilman Jason Williams asked about the property, saying it “has caused a huge problem” for the community.

The city obtained an administrative judgment last year declaring that Lake Terrace was a nuisance property and calling for about $6,000 in fines, which Assistant City Attorney Tammie Jackson said were unpaid. The city was preparing to put the property into lien foreclosure, the first step toward putting it up for a public auction.

“It’s already been reviewed, and it’s ready to go,” Jackson said at the meeting. She said the owners of the property, Kenneth Charity’s DMK Acquisitions, had filed for and received a suspension of the judgment pending an appeal hearing. But, she added, the appeal was not served within the 90 days required by law.

On May 20, Charity and attorney Eric Person argued that the city should be legally restrained from going through with the foreclosure. Their petition says Person paid for service of the suspensive appeal motion on October 31, 2014. The appeal was granted on Nov. 3. It goes on to say that the city had “actual knowledge” of the suspensive appeal because city officials were contacted by The Lens following Jackson’s comments. The Lens contacted city officials on March 18, 19 and 20, more than 90 days after the suspensive appeal was granted.

Gill-Jefferson granted the temporary restraining order on May 20. She set a hearing in on a temporary injunction for June 11 in Jupiter’s courtroom.

Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado is the editor of The Lens. He previously worked as The Lens' government accountability reporter, covering local politics and criminal justice. Prior to joining The Lens, he worked for...