New owner of highly-visible blighted hotel promises change, in face of massive graffiti display

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - It is a long dormant hotel, that may be the city's worst, and most visible eyesore.

A high rise hotel on Interstate 10 has been a blight for years, and is now covered in graffiti, greeting thousands of people as they drive into, and out of the city, with a message that few understand.

Melissa Bertucci is the operator of the 100-room 'Family Inn Motel' at Chef and 1-10 and she tries to keep it clean and attractive for visitors from all over the world.

"We're trying to build the business, the pool is open, and it's changing," said Bertucci.

But visitors to her motel, and thousands more who pour into the city on I-10 from the east each day, are greeted by a 10-story hotel, which hasn't operated in more than 12 years, now covered top to bottom in graffiti which says 'Caveman Reader'.

"It happened overnight and I was shocked, I didn't know who did it," said Bertucci.

Many consider this one of the worst eyesores in New Orleans, and Bertucci wants better for her guests.

"I do, it's nothing I want to look out my window and see," said Bertucci.

The view leaving town on I-10 is just as bad, in the other direction. The 100-foot tall, 200-foot wide building may be the city's largest graffiti billboard, and it's much worse than it was in November of last year, when FOX 8 first reported on the problems it creates.  At the time, James Gray, the councilman for the area promised change.

"We're going to put liens on it until it improves," Gray stated.

But seven months later, the eyesore has it's third owner in as many years. The new owner, Peter Gardner, declined our request for an on-camera interview, but told FOX 8 he was going to clear out the vagrants, who were suspected of vandalizing nearby property.

Gardner also said he would secure the two acre site, with a new fence, which is now in place.

"I am glad, and hopefully it will stop them,' said Bertucci.

She says it's time for owners of this long-standing eyesore to clean up.

"I think they need to get rid of it, asap," said Bertucci.

The new owner says he hopes to renovate the property, and begin developing it as a hotel again, withing the next year, but for now he says he's not sure, what if anything he will do about the graffiti, now greeting drivers on one of the city's busiest gateways.

City spokeswoman Erin Burns tells FOX 8, 'There were previous enforcement actions against the property, but now that there's a new owner, the city will work with that owner to try and bring the long-blighted property back into compliance, and commerce.'  Burns was not aware of any current enforcement actions against the property.

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