Kenner threatens to demolish neglected shopping center

KENNER, LA (WVUE) - In the last decade, a favorite Kenner hangout has become a mere memory of what it once was. Now, city officials are giving property owners a choice-- fill the Pavilion Shopping Center or pay for its demolition.

"They need to do something because sitting there with nothing. I mean, it's horrible. It's horrible," said Kenner resident Elizabeth McInerney.

Empty storefronts, sidewalks sprouting weeds and missing letters-- reminiscent of a go-to Kenner hot spot.

What was once a thriving strip mall, the Pavilion Shopping Center is on the verge of disrepair.

"When my wife and I were dating this was the place to come," said Mayor Ben Zahn. "Over time, it's basically declined."

Like many residents, Mayor Zahn remembers this place in it's prime. He also shares the same sentiment-- something must be done to bring it back.

"The people of Kenner deserve more," said Zahn.

It's why Zahn recently called for a code sweep of the property, which he says revealed 88 violations.

"That's not including on the inside," he said.

The property owner made improvements.

"But I was hoping that it would also lead to attracting some businesses," said Zahn.

Now, the city is offering an ultimatum. In a letter to the realtor, officials write the storefronts must be filled or the property will be demolished.

"If you're not going to do anything with it, free space would probably be the best. If you're going to do something with the contracts that we hear are out there to be signed, sign those contracts and produce some business for our constituents. Produce some sales tax for the City of Kenner. If you have no plans of doing that, let "At Home" stand by itself with the businesses that are making it in the front," Zahn explained.

Residents we spoke to say they'd rather see revitalization.

"They don't need to tear it down, though. They need a few businesses over there," said Kenner resident Derrick Butler.

"I would like to see more stores back here. It's a little dead back here," Kenner resident Roderick Wright said.

Yet, Zahn says demolition is a last resort.

"Demolishing it is an alternative but when you demolish it, obviously that doesn't produce sales tax, either," said Zahn.

Realtor Sid Bullard tells FOX 8 he and the property owner are on the right path. He says an event center, set to open in a month, should increase traffic. Plus, a unit under renovation will serve as a model for potential tenants. Bullard says he's showing five spaces a week.

Bullard adds he's working with several grocery stores and says a tweak in the leasing process should allow tenants to be approved more quickly.

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