After nearly two years of opposition by neighbors and repeated rejections from city officials, the demolition of a century-old home on General Pershing just off Magazine Street was approved Thursday by the New Orleans City Council.
A previous owner first sought city permission to tear down the vacant old house at 820 General Pershing in late 2012 to make way for a parking lot for businesses on the adjacent block of Magazine Street, but city officials rejected the request amid strong opposition from neighbors. The building was sold, and in June of this year, the new owner again sought permission to tear it down because of its “deplorable” condition to be replaced by a private garden.
The Neighborhood Conservation District Committee denied the proposal, with members skeptically questioning the plan for the garden. The owner, Dr. Frank DellaCroce via a company called Triton Holdings Two LLC, appealed the NCDC denial, bringing it before the City Council on Thursday.
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said the situation had reached an “impasse.” She could never support demolishing a historic home for a parking lot, she said, but at least the garden will prevent the commercial encroachment from Magazine Street that is part of neighbors’ concerns.
Neighbors worked late into Wednesday evening at Cantrell’s office to reach a good-neighbor agreement with the owner of 820 General Pershing designating the lot as a private fenced-in garden, the councilwoman said. With a vow by Cantrell to never support any zoning other than residential for the lot, the garden seems like the best resolution to the issue, Cantrell said.
“With all being said, the blighted property as it sits now, no one’s winning,” Cantrell said.
Councilwoman Stacy Head, who represented the area prior to Cantrell, disagreed. The building could still be renovated into a beautiful home, she said, so she cannot support it being torn down.
“I think we’re being held hostage by some people who aren’t doing what they should have done,” Head said.
Councilman Jason Williams — the only other council member to speak — said he knew the agreement was not easy an easy resolution to reach, because no council member is in favor of demolishing historic properties.
Representatives of the company that owns the property attended the meeting, but did not address the Council about it. A number of neighbors sat in the audience as well, holding a copy of the good-neighbor agreement, but they did not speak either. The only public comment on the issue was from Neal Morris, a house renovator who participating in an earlier presentation by the Preservation Resource Center about the importance of renovation.
“I’ve renovated a lot of buildings in really bad shape, and this building can be renovated,” Morris said.
With that, the demolition approval passed 6-1, with Head the lone dissenting vote.
To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below: