In 2002 local musical impresarios Benny Grunch and the Bunch released a song entitled “Ain’t Dere No More.” In it the group collectively bemoan, as only the natives may, the loss of landmarks around the New Orleans metro area. It played in my head over these last few days as I watched yet more apparently salvageable dwellings, in this case double shotguns, meet their untimely demise in the 2400 block of Cadiz. What was more upsetting to me was that their demolition was supposedly not going to happen, and the structures were to be saved by their new owner Arnold Kirschman. Even be occupied by him. Except guess what? They gone.
Kirschman revealed a few short weeks ago the doubles would be replaced. And not with similar structures, but a greater-density new build. So either Kirschman, no stranger to real-estate renovation or development (this ain’t his first rodeo, folks), either innocently did not do enough due diligence on the front end to accurately assess the condition of the shotguns, or simply had no intention of ever saving them. Feel free to decide which. For the record, the demolition permit for the dwellings was filed February 24th, 2015, many weeks before he shared this update with the neighborhood.
The old bait and switch breathes long and deep in the Big Easy. Right hand, left hand, what does it matter, right? Once upon a time I resided in the Riverbend at 825 Dublin, a single shotgun. I loved that house, I loved the block, I loved everything about the area — ’til I outgrew it, that is. Twelve hundred square feet for a growing family of four gets small quick, trust me. Two blocks down from our home, also on Dublin and more or less directly behind Camellia Grill, there once stood a comparable single shotgun right in the middle of a huge 122-by-120 lot.
The shotgun sat there for years, unoccupied, in disrepair. Each evening as I walked past it to sit on the levee and watch the sun go down I often mused what might happen to that little dusty gem. Before you know it, a developer purchased the house and land. Afterward the developer presented a not-so-aggressive plan to demo the structure and build a modest modern structure to be called Dublin Lofts. The demolition permit was issued, the home razed, and the developer suddenly had an idea. Lo and behold, a different set of plans emerged! These required variances of setback and height. Subtle, right?
Dublin Lofts quickly spiraled into an abyss of protest over deceit being the key to unlocking the never-to-be-developed development. Yours truly even spoke before the BZA, even partially disrobing on camera to reveal a homemade t-shirt that read ‘Preserve My Levee View.’ These hearings used to air on cable access, I presume they still do, so yes, in every way I was trying to get my and my rallied neighbors’ point across. Ultimately the developer withdrew their plans, Dublin Lofts never happened, and today at 621 Dublin there sits a new construction building more in scope with the area in a hospice called Passages.
So who cares about our old architecture? I do, you should also, and in my opinion, anyone that professes themselves a New Orleanian too. Clearly there are those among us in the Crescent City who in grand scheme of things see nothing wrong with saying one thing and doing another. Poppycock, horse feathers and blatant chicanery. Methinks Mr. Kirschman has some more explaining to do. At the very least, taking someone at their word may require more skepticism than most might care to muster, and in my experience once you begin to erode the trust of the public that initially patted you on the back? Good luck earning it again.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.