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FOX 8 Defenders: New Orleans East eyesore conversion underway

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 5:18 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A local developer is giving a prominent New Orleans East eyesore a major facelift.

After years of neglect, the owner of the 9-story building on Chef Menteur Highway near the I-10 says its rebirth is well underway.

For years now the dominant structure on the New Orleans East skyline has been a roadside blemish on the way in from the east.

The FOX 8 Defenders first reported on the hotel four years ago after a graffiti artist wrote “Caveman Reader” across its façade, making it the largest and most curious billboard in the city.

“I wonder how they even got up there to do that,” said New Orleans East resident Venus Augustine.

“People have tried to deface it but they barely made a dent in it,” said developer Peter Gardner.

Within the last month the graffiti was erased.

“It was not as hard as you think. We have a 75 foot boom lift in the back, I got some heavy duty pressure washers and I just went to town on it,” said Gardner.

40 workers are now busy installing new walls, plumbing, and wiring, to convert the former eyesore into 144 new high-rise apartments.

“We’ve basically taken three hotel rooms and turned them into two apartments,” said Gardner.

The new apartment building will be called simply “The High-Rise Apartments”.

“We are envisioning rates at least $750 to $850 a month range which is geared for a workforce housing for folks in town,” said Gardner.

This old building was originally a Holiday Inn with a classic 1960s hotel design. It was designated historic which opened the door for the developer to get thousands in tax credits.

“Those have been crucial, we wouldn’t be building anything without them,” said Gardner.

The credits, worth 40 percent of the construction cost, require Gardner to keep the original lines of the building which will look much like this when it’s opened next year.

After years of neglect, the owner of the 9-story building on Chef Menteur Highway near the I-10...
After years of neglect, the owner of the 9-story building on Chef Menteur Highway near the I-10 says its rebirth is well underway.(Williams Architects)

“Whether people like the blocks on the outside or the features that’s what makes it historic and those are all staying,” said Gardner.

New Orleans east residents are happy to see the conversion.

“I am glad to see something being done with it we have it just going to waste right now,” said New Orleans east resident Justin Pierre.

And the buildings owner is determined to keep graffiti artists away

“I have cameras all over the place,” Gardner said.

Gardner says he has put about $8 million into the project. He says it will include a fitness room, and he hopes to add a restaurant.

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