Still in Ruins: A look at some of New Orleans' worst blighted properties

Still in Ruins: A look at some of New Orleans' worst blighted properties

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - They're rotting landmarks that residents are tired of living with, destroyed businesses creating eyesores in their neighborhoods. Now, homeowners want answers.

"It's like a sad remnant of Katrina," resident Kevin Johnson said.

Speaking of the old Lindy Boggs Medical Center in Mid-City, another nearby homeowner adds, "It's disheartening, it is disheartening. I would love to see improvements."

Mid-City is bursting with new development. New businesses are opening up shop for the first time along with the creation of the Lafitte Greenway and a planned 382-unit apartment complex along Bayou St. John. But this place where people used to turn for help is now shuttered, dirty and falling apart.

Johnson explains, "They took care of me, gave me I think three stitches, and you know, put my finger back together, stitched it up."

Don Washington adds, "It's just kinda like disappointing. Truly it's an eyesore. It's just attraction for trouble."

Tim Levy, president of the Greater Mid-City Business Association adds, "I do know there are vagrants that go in there and get out of there. We do know there's a lot of drug activity happening in the building."

Police agree that abandoned structures are often hotbeds for criminal activity, which is exactly why Hollygrove residents are so frustrated with an old Church's Chicken restaurant on Earhart Boulevard.

Resident Patricia Franklin says, "Most times when I pass by, if it's not a broken car, it's baby diapers, so all kind of garbage and graffiti and stuff like that. All kind of graffiti on the walls and stuff like that, so it's an eyesore, a very bad eyesore."

Neighbors say people always hang around the boarded-up business.

"It tarnishes the neighborhood," Megan Hyde said.

For years, some have asked city leaders for help, but have been left in the dark.

"I'm concerned about who owns the property. If we can get in touch with who owns the property but we don't even know who owns the property," Franklin said.

About two miles away, Broadmoor business owners know who owns the old Bohn Ford building but face the same frustrating challenges. A colorful mural can't mask the shell of a building at the corner of Broad and Washington.

"I just hope that somehow it'll get put back online," Laurel Street Bakery owner Hillary Guttman, said.

Green Coast Enterprises owner Lex Kelso adds, "It's definitely frustrating and part of it, I know is part of the difficulty of redeveloping it, is the size."

About three years ago, the neighborhood slowly started to rebound post-Katrina.

Guttman explains, "We were the first kinda major thing here that was open to the public as a retail space that people could come into, every day."

But Guttman and others here believe, any type of new development would enhance this Broadmoor intersection while helping other small businesses.

"It would be the lynchpin of the neighborhood if it were back," Kelso said.

So the question now, are there any plans for these sites? The Rhodes family, owners of the funeral home, also own the old Bohn building. While they aren't talking, others who own shops around it say they've heard that plans could be in the works for a major development. The city said it's working to bring the property back into commerce. A spokesperson for Mayor Landrieu's office adds that the owners and Gulf Coast Housing Partnership are securing funding. In fact, we're told, they're seeking new market tax credits and historic tax credits for the re-development.

Hillary Guttman is cautiously optimistic, saying, "I do know that it is in the works to be renovated but I have also heard that that was happening years ago."

We tracked down the owner of the old Church's Chicken on Earhart, the Macaluso Realty Co. Kevin Macaluso says there is a plan in place to re-develop the site. He adds it's been in the works for about a year, but wouldn't give more specifics.

Neighbor Megan Hyde comments, "I think they should have something like community wise, like a garden or something like that for the children or even for the elderly, give them something to do."

In response to the concerns about the trash and graffiti that litter the property, Macaluso says, "people dump it and we try to move it."

He adds, "We're not going to keep re-painting it to provide a fresh canvas."

In March of this year, Macaluso Realty was found guilty at a blight hearing of not properly maintaining the property.The judgment included a $2,000 fine plus the ability to include fines of $500 a day. In June, Macaluso appealed the judgment to Civil District Court.

Meanwhile back at the former Lindy Boggs hospital on Bienville, St. Margaret's owns the property, and back in 2013, we spoke to the director of development, Michael Gilman. At the time, he explained plans were in the works for a sort of medical mall.

"We're talking about additional nursing home beds with other medical services that are gonna tie in with the people we serve and also with the needs of the community," Gilman said.

He also added in September of 2013, "The other half we currently have feasibility studies out now to determine what the best use is. Can't disclose that as of yet, but we're moving closer to putting together the full plan."

But three years later, not much has changed.

"I wish they would do a better job of securing it, keeping it clean. Ideally, just demolish it until they can determine what to do with it," Levy said.

We reached out to St. Margaret's for an update, but haven't heard back. A spokesperson for the city's Regional Planning Commission tells us it's working with St. Margaret's to assess the building. There's an asbestos issue that may be disturbed if work were to begin on the building right away. We're told there is a redevelopment plan, for after the asbestos is addressed, but no timeline or concrete plans were provided.

"Ten years is an awful long time to just have that there," resident Don Washington said.

Feeling fed up, some neighbors say, they've all but lost hope, to see any change.

A spokesperson for Mayor Landrieu says private property owners should take care of their properties so that the City does not have to allocate valuable resources to the issue. The city now has fewer than 15,000 blighted addressed.

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