Historic home meant to be preserved collapses in Isaac

Published: Sep. 10, 2012 at 6:13 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2012 at 7:53 PM CDT
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New Orleans, La.-- The city spent thousands of dollars to move them and eventually preserve them.  Now, one of the historic homes moved out of the VA Hospital footprint needs to be cleared after it collapsed during Hurricane Isaac.

Isaac did a number on Southeast Louisiana, and on Bienville St., near North Prieur, a New Orleans home came crashing down in early September.  The roof now covers the sidewalk, exposing the roof's sharp nails.  It's one of dozens of historic homes that was moved out of the VA hospital footprint in 2010 and meant to be preserved.

"We had the land, and they (City of New Orleans) were looking for places to move these houses because they were designated as historic homes," said Sr. Vera Butler with the Tulane/Canal Neighborhood Development Corporation.  Butler tells FOX 8, the non-profit's plan was to develop the house for a low to moderate-income family interested in becoming a home-buyer.  She said the city moved the home at 1930 Bienville St. onto the neighborhood corporation's land along with the house adjacent to it at 1936 Bienville St.

"We were told at the time that the money was available to re-develop them, but that.. really hasn't happened.  I guess the city was met with many challenges trying to address the issues, and it just hasn't happened.. and of course then Isaac came and one of them has collapsed," said Butler.

One neighborhood resident described how the property looked before Isaac.  "It looked better than it looks now," said Gary Hollins.  Even before the slow-moving storm moved in, this property like many of the other ones picked up and moved, was stripped, down to the studs.  "They were really in pretty poor shape," explained Butler.

Butler said the only thing that's changed on these properties in the nearly two years since they were moved is that they both have new roofs.  The historic homes that were moved had to be stripped of their roofs to pass power and street car lines on the trip to their new locations.  Now Butler fears the other historic home right next door is also on the verge of collapsing.

"It looks very frail.. very frail.  I'm not sure it's in a position to be renovated, but I know the city is looking at it right now to see if it can be saved and renovated," said Butler.   "Well I'm sure with enough resources, and all, they can be saved.  They can be saved," mentioned Hollins.  But Butler said it's been nearly two years, and resources haven't reached her non-profit.  Now she says the city has no choice but to clear away the collapsed home.

A city spokesperson offered the following response:  "The City is monitoring the redevelopment of the houses moved from the VA/UMC footprint.  Immediately following Hurricane Isaac, City inspectors were sent to inspect all of the houses and evaluate their condition.  Three of the houses (1930 & 1936 Bienville and 1726 North Villere) have been determined to be substantially damaged by the storm and are now slated for demolition," said Ryan Berni.

Berni said, "the City is currently developing a process with our housing non-profit partners to redevelop as many of the houses as possible.  Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) and HOME program funding previously allocated to Builders of Hope has been rescinded and set aside for renovating the UMC/VA properties. A formal Request for Proposals will be going out soon."