Monday, May 31, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Parallel Track

I've alluded to the last ditch side effort to move some of the houses out of the footprint even as demolitions have begun.  I haven't mentioned it all that much because I was afraid to get my hopes up.

But it sounds like several of the major non-profits involved in that planning have plans in place to move 5 of the 12 houses next in line for demolition to vacant lots in Mid-City where they would be restored or simply re-sited.

I can only hope that this plan, which is no doubt dependent upon the demolition contractor granting permission, comes to fruition.  If the government parties and their subcontractors are willing to permit historic houses to be moved - ultimately resulting in a clearing of the site on a timeline similar to the current demolition timeline - it would be a significant development.  It would, at the very least, recognize the value of saving unique and historic New Orleans architecture and keeping it in its general context.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Sewer replacement on S. Rocheblave

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Response to Mayor Landrieu

Watching Mayor Mitch Landrieu's recent remarks to the Preservation Resource Center, I couldn't help but notice, for all his reasonable observations, how flippant he was when it came to historic preservation in Lower Mid-City.

Go to about 4:40 on the video here.

"I don't think we oughtta tear down Charity Hospital building...That doesn't mean that we shouldn't build a new LSU hospital.  Now I know sometimes people are confusing those two things.  But one of 'ems about historic preservation and one of 'ems about medical care.  It doesn't have anything to do with the footprint that the new LSU hospital ought to be on - that can be part of urban design as well.  But we ought to be smart enough to figure out how to have that discussion...and not let that discussion get co-opted - and abused - by activists who are not interested in finding an answer, but are interested in pushing an agenda."

The Mayor states that he doesn't want to tear down the existing Charity Hospital building.  But he doesn't want to put the LSU hospital in that structure, as I've pointed out before.

And he's completely wrong when he tries to state that saving the existing Charity structure is the only relevant concern about historic preservation...while the destruction of hundreds of historic buildings in Lower Mid-City is somehow not about historic preservation, but about medical care alone.  That's a raw fallacy, and I don't see why the PRC membership in attendance deigned to give him a standing ovation.  Historic preservation concerns are inherently intertwined.

I know the Mayor, in slapping activists as hijacking the hospitals discussion, meant those opposed to the proposed hospital footprints in Lower Mid-City (many of whom supported a reasonable and feasible alternate plan to reduce the footprint by putting LSU back in Charity - a plan that was arguably faster, less expensive, and less destructive).  But his words could have applied just as easily to the LSU, VA, and New Orleans city government zealots that have pushed the current proposed hospital footprints forward at every step, despite the illogic of the moves, with near complete disregard for historic preservation (or, as we began to see this spring, private property rights).

Fear of activists co-opting a discussion is really just code for ensuring that his own underlying view on the matter - get the federal money above all else - prevails.  As with the fallout from his police chief task force, it demonstrates that he seems to have a problem with tolerating different viewpoints.

The morning report

As of this morning, S. Rocheblave is closed at Palmyra for street work.

Farther down Palmyra, a U-Haul was parked outside of the red four-bay shotgun, the white picket fence out front removed in part for the movers.

Dusk in the Footprint

A visit to the Footprint on Saturday evening, a turn around the corner onto Cleveland, and a token of the vitality that remains, for now - basketball, music, balloons.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Dirty Shame Dozen

Here are the next 12 houses slated for demolition inside the VA hospital footprint:


#4      2420 Palmyra St.: Fully renovated/Homeowner just moved out. State purchased for $124,000
#117   321 S. Galvez St.: Owner has decided NOT to move; dropped from SHPO moving list
#93     229 S. Galvez. Renovated. 120 yrs old.
#89     300-02 S. Miro St. 2 story Duplex; 1920's. Not renovated.
#9       2213-15 Banks St. 1915 Craftsman double. Partial renovation. Great house
#30     2336-8 Cleveland St.: Renovated 4 bay shotgun double. Renovated. 115 years old.
#84     2412 Palmyra St.: 120 years old, 3 bay shotgun with recessed side gallery
#76     2415 Banks St.: Raised basement. 115 years old.
#27     2421 Banks St. Classic 3 bay shotgun. (4 bay?) Renovated. 110 years old
#14     2426 Palmyra St. Classic 2 bay single shotgun. 110 years old.

           2322-2324 Cleveland
           2201-03 Cleveland

For images of the other numbered houses without hyperlinks, match them up with the photos at

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Palmyra Closed

Street construction has erupted all around the VA footprint...and while New Orleans' streets inside and outside the footprint certainly need help, it's interesting to see how the mass of street work has effectively blocked off key points of ingress and egress in the VA footprint.

It's probably coincidental, but it's not too far-fetched to wonder whether it's part of an effort to drive residents out of the place - residents who either continue to own their properties or live as tenants in those properties.  While the hassle likely doesn't yet rise to the level of a government taking, it begins to verge on that tipping point - when one can barely access one's property because of a mess of government actions.

For example, just today, Palmyra, a one way street dense with houses, became impassable at S. Rocheblave, as the photo above shows.  The block of Palmyra between S. Miro and Galvez was already rendered a non-thoroughfare due to construction.  And S. Miro ends now with signs at Cleveland, barring anyone from proceeding to Canal Street.  Construction at Cleveland and S. Rocheblave has also severely reduced the roadway available to go lake-ward on Cleveland.

At every turn, normal life in the VA footprint is being curtailed and limited.  That would be one thing if people no longer lived in the properties - if they had already been acquired by the VA or LSU - but few have.

Black and Gold

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A long camelback

"literally and figuratively an earth-shaking event for New Orleans"

A date is set:

"On the morning of Friday, June 25, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, VISN Director George Gray and I will take shovels in hand and break ground at the site of our new facility, symbolically beginning the construction of what will become the most advanced hospital in the VA system. Although ceremonial, this is literally and figuratively an earth-shaking event for New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System."

Monday, May 17, 2010

On the periphery

Over the past week, things have been relatively quiet inside the footprint.  Various excavation and street work projects continue on S. Rocheblave (the lakeside boundary of the VA Footprint) and on S. Galvez (the riverside boundary).

Demolition of houses, however, appears to have halted for the time being.  The school teacher occupant of the small shotgun on Palmyra - which was on the demolition permission list - has vacated his home.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Respite, it Appears

With the equipment trailered, it seems there will be no demolitions in the VA footprint today.

"Restoring New Orleans' Historic Past"

Hmm...besides restoring the Pan-Am building (seen in the background)...which is not distinctly New Orleanian in style, I think the sign's slogan is almost laughably disingenuous.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Don't Forget

Even as demolition gets underway and attention is focused almost entirely on the VA footprint, the LSU footprint continues to sit in uncertainty as well.

A hearing to close the streets in the second footprint will happen next month:

The street revocation request for the LSU hospital has been scheduled for a hearing before the City Planning Commission on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 in the City Council chamber.

Another Expropriation/Eminent Domain Warning Sign

This time it's useful to draw a lesson from the condemnation of a VFW post in Milwaukee, as outlined in the case City of Milwaukee VFW Post No. 2874 v. Redevelopment Agency - as in Kelo, the razed lands sit idle after being seized by a government entity:

There is a special wrinkle to this case. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Tom Daykin, Former Hotel Site Remains a Vacant Lot, Oct. 27, 2009) that after spending some $856,000 on acquisitions in 2001, and after blowing another $970,000 on remediation in 2003 - a half-dozen years ago - the city has done nothing with all that land that, being now publicly owned, has presumably been removed from public tax rolls, and is just sitting there. The debt of $3.69 million that is “tied to” the now-vacant site (as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel puts is), now has to be paid off by city funds diverted from tax revenues while the subject site just sits there, doing no one any good.

A Third Vacancy

2410-12 Cleveland Avenue is no more.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

People in the 'print

Sometimes, with all the focus on the houses, it's helpful to remember that this is still a place...where people are trying to live.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Clearing S Tonti Street

Two houses have been demolished.

325 and 319 S. Tonti with 323 remaining.

The site of 319 S. Tonti.  This building, the little pink shotgun.

Signs like this have sprouted all around the footprint.  And door hangings from Catholic Charities, which are at least partially in Spanish.

The two properties slated for demolition on Cleveland have not yet been touched.  And someone still appears to be living in the house on Palmyra that was also requested for demolition back in March.