Fire in abandoned theater sparks calls for action on other blighted properties in N.O. East

Fire in abandoned theater sparks calls for action on other blighted properties in N.O. East

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A two-alarm blaze at an abandoned New Orleans East theater has some residents hoping city leaders will finally do something about the dilapidated building.

Dawn Hebert said she was leaving a graduation party Friday night (May 17), when a fire at the abandoned Grand Theater broke out.

“We saw the many, over 10 fire trucks, and then we noticed the smoke billowing out of the center of the building. So we were like, oh my God,” Hebert said.

According to New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell, the fire caused the roof to collapse.

"The property hadn't been taken care of, it got into a very dilapidated condition, it is scheduled to be torn down, so, the good news is nobody got hurt," McConnell said.

Some New Orleans East residents reached out to the FOX 8 Defenders last year with complaints about the blighted property.

Many now hope the fire will get city leaders to tear down the graffiti-covered building.

"I would actually call it a blessing in disguise," Danielle Santiago said.

“We’re kind of happy, I would say,” Hebert said. “Because maybe at this point, the city will see the importance of doing something with this building."

The building has been uncared for since Katrina. The site is owned by Ashton Ryan, the founder of First NBC, which is no longer in business.

"It's been way too long. As a resident of New Orleans East, we want economic development. We need economic development," Hebert said.

Residents said the number of eyesore buildings in the community makes them feel neglected.

“There’s a need in New Orleans East. We don’t have any commercial businesses that are out here in New Orleans East. The community is no longer thriving, it’s died. It’s dead. It’s deceased," Santiago said. "What do we need to do to bring it alive?”

Copyright 2019 WVUE. All rights reserved.