May 062015
 
The shotguns in the 2400 block of Cadiz -- before their demolition (top left, via Google Maps), then during and after their demolition (by Jean-Paul Villere for UptownMessenger.com)

The shotguns in the 2400 block of Cadiz — before their demolition (top left, via Google Maps), then during and after their demolition (by Jean-Paul Villere for UptownMessenger.com)

Jean-Paul Villere

Jean-Paul Villere

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.

  • DS

    “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.”

    Did you ask him? How do you say that this demolition is an “untimely demise” when one of the articles you reference states that the two properties were not salvageable and the termites inspectors would not even go under the house. Granted, Kirschman made that statement. But how hard is it to do one fact check before you go throw accusations around? Disappointing.

    • Jean-Paul Villere

      DS – Be disappointed all you want. The neighborhood wins that title though. Collectively multiplying the density effectively 8 or 10 fold by replacing like with completely different is horribly laughable. In other words, why should Krischman be allowed to build something on the back end that has no reference to the front end; he knows – and you know too – the neighborhood would never support that. Buyer beware if in fact he didn’t do his due diligence while under contract to assess their condition. That dog don’t hunt, sir. Do you really think that’s what happened? Do you really think their condition deteriorated to the degree of demolition from the time his due diligence period ended to beginning the project? Really!? Kirschman did what just about any developer sadly does, espousing one thing then backdooring another. As for how did I arrive at my conclusion that the demolition was untimely, well, empirically. A traditional demo involves about 3 hrs, a few dumpsters, and a backhoe. Done and done. These homes were meticulously harvested over days. Strange behavior for something so termite ridden, wouldn’t you say? Also, BS.

      • lindabordenave

        Can the neighborhood association oppose or does Kirschman already have permits in place to build?

      • DS

        Something sounding strange does not establish deception. If you asked him to make a statement and he dodged or didn’t return your calls, then…yeah…I would find the whole thing deceptive.

        A few months back I was poking my head around the coin laundry during construction. Kirschman was there, and he explained to me that he was attempting salvage the houses. He said he was going to relocate both. One house was going to be moved to a vacant lot on S. Robertson. The other he had not found a home for. He said his plan was contingent upon the structural soundness of the homes and whether they were salvageable. He said he would put more of the apartments on the former foot prints of the two houses. He was clear – no deception. Well the structural soundness of the homes didn’t work out – not a surprise since they have been in disrepair for years. And over a month ago, he said he would donate these landmarks of Cadiz St. to any takers but not one singe realty group or developer near Freret saved these historic homes from their untimely demise.

        At the end of the day, there is just a fundamental difference of opinion between those who prefer to have blighted properties sit indefinitely until some benevolent developer comes to salvage the unsalvageable and those who would prefer to have some development, however flawed. Living in this neighborhood that suffers from blight and serious crime, I will take a populated development to quaint blight any day.

  • Uptowner

    Thanks for getting this issue on the public radar again JP, it is a disturbing trend.

    As documented on this site, a similar fate happened at 820 General Pershing, which was a viable, desirable, very much salvageable historic multi-unit property just off of Magazine. Neighbors even made an offer to buy it at a profit for the owner (to renovate it), which was declined as the investor ultimately wanted to demo the house so he could flip the vacant lot with his abutting commercial property on Magazine. Appeasing donor/investors seems to be the priority of our councilmembers (except for Ms. Head) over “preserving our neighborhoods” as they all like to preach about. They are the ones to blame for this as they are the ones ultimately “green lighting” such demos of historic properties.

    I’m afraid the trend of commercial encroachment into neighborhoods just off of thoroughfares like Magazine and Freret is going to continue as long as wealthy developers are throwing their weight around, like when Ms. Cantrell mysteriously overturned her previous decision to save the structure on Gen. Pershing. Arnold Kirschmann is a wealthy guy who owns a lot of real estate around town (as is Dr. Delacroce, the investor responsible for the demise of 820 General Pershing)… Just a hunch but typical Nola politics are probably involved here. Sad.

  • You know what irks me? The same people defending their own turf wouldn’t agree with the government intervention in, say, a place like NYC. There, it’s just “capitalism”. Here it’s an affront to all that is holy. Applaud tax cutting and rent raising elsewhere? Don’t be surprised when it comes home up roost…