New N.O. East shopping may replace blighted theatre - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

New N.O. East shopping may replace blighted theatre


NEW ORLEANS - For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, serious negotiations for a new shopping mall at the Plaza site are under way. New Orleans City Councilman James Gray tells FOX 8 the city has a deal in the works that could bring bigger and better shopping.

An eyesore sits on the land right now in the form of a blighted theatre called The Grand. Untouched since Katrina, it is teeming with ants and covered in graffiti.

"I'm sick and tired of looking at that mess," one resident said.

The outside of the theatre is bad enough, but to make matters worse, the inside isn't secured. The back door was slightly ajar when our cameras visited. Vagrants have claimed the place as their own, and mold, glass and pieces of debris cover the floor.

"The community's great, and it doesn't represent the whole community. Whoever owns it needs to do something with it," another area resident said.

"There's a partnership of people who own the big building that have a lease on land. The lease on land is terminated," Gray said.

According to the Secretary of State's office, the land is owned by Lakeforest Plaza LLC, with members Ashton Ryan and Cesar Burgos. Burgos tells FOX 8 the building is owned by another LLC called Grand of the East LLC, with owners Alden McDonald, George Solomon Jr. and Ashton Ryan.

Councilman Gray said the city's code enforcement office has been utilizing the laws to try to force action but has gotten nowhere. But the old building could soon be a non-issue.

"I think there's a real effort right now that in the very near future," Gray said. "We're going to hear about a development on the site."

Gray won't go into details, but he tells FOX 8 that talks are in the works for a mall that could dwarf the old plaza.

Other new stores have already taken part of the site, adding revitalization to the area.

The lack of progress at The Grand sends a grim message. Gray says new ordinances have been passed to toughen penalties for blight. He says under the old laws, the maximum penalty was $15,000. On a commercial property that's worth millions that is not much of a threat.

Until progress comes, The Grand is a sore sight from the interstate, like a haunted postcard welcoming you to New Orleans East.


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