Mar 162016
 
Construction equipment chews through the old structure on the Amelia Street side on April 20, 2015. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Construction equipment chews through the old structure on the Amelia Street side on April 20, 2015. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The church pastor who owned an apartment building that dramatically collapsed on Amelia Street is seeking federal money to rebuild more affordable housing on the site, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell told neighbors on Tuesday evening.

After years of complaints from neighbors about its blighted condition and allegations of illegal activity by squatters in the former apartments at 1900 Amelia, the building suddenly collapsed in April 2015. The fate of the site remained uncertain, but the Rev. Charles Southall III of the First Emanuel Baptist Church in Central City has filed an application with the Louisiana Housing Corp. for money to rebuild affordable housing on the site, Cantrell said at a joint meeting Tuesday night of the Delachaise Neighborhood Association and Milan Focus Group at their new location, Martin Wine Cellar.

Technically, the long period of disuse has cost the site its multi-family zoning, Cantrell said, and it has reverted to the same two-family residential classification of the surrounding neighborhood. But with the growing housing affordability crisis in the city, Cantrell said, she will strongly consider allowing the some form of multi-family housing to return there, and urged the neighborhood to begin considering that as well.

“Where multi-family has existed, it has a right to re-exist,” Cantrell said. “It’s something we’re going to have to think through together. These are some of the things we have to think about when you’re talking about multi-family that used to exist in a community that’s now going away.”

The previous building had 10 units, and Cantrell said in response to neighbors’ questions that she doubts she would allow more than that in the new proposal.

“I don’t see increased. I see dealing with what was, versus what it is,” Cantrell said. “Whether it’s going to two, or is it 10, or you can even meet in the middle in there — all I’m saying is, it’s going to be a conversation. As your council person, what I look for, and what I’m very conscious of, is affordability in this city and taking units off the market that used to exist pre-Katrina.”

A neighbor who lives next door to the project asked Cantrell if the new project must be an apartment building, or perhaps if the site could be subdivided to create multiple smaller two-family homes. Cantrell said she would personally find that to be a good solution, but that what happens may be dependent on what kind of money Southall receives.

“I think that sounds good, but I don’t know what’s being proposed just yet,” Cantrell said. “What possible funding streams are coming to bring that parcel back into commerce will have everything to do with what you can do on it.”

Cantrell said she only confirmed the application on Friday, and wanted to give the neighborhood as much time as possible to consider it.

“Other neighborhoods don’t want any multi-family, which is a problem. We have to find that balance,” Cantrell said. “I’m not telling him, whatever you want you’ll get, and I’m not telling the community whatever you want, you’ll get.

“Affordability matters in this city, and it matters in this neighborhood. We’re in a crisis here,” Cantrell continued. “In this community, looking at the demographics, it’s not about pushing people out. It’s about building balance, and that’s what I’m looking for. But we’ll do it together. That’s why I brought it up.”

The Delachaise Neighborhood Association did not discuss any position to take on the project on Monday night, but thanked Cantrell for her attention to it and for bringing the information.

“We’ve been working on this property for so long,” said association president Dodd Denton. “We’re so glad you’ve taken it on.”

Meanwhile, the association is planning its third annual anti-blight at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 19, with the goal of creating a comprehensive neighborhood survey. Neighbors will gather at Martin Wine Cellar and divide into teams to catalog the remaining blighted properties and build a spreadsheet so that they can contact owners about restoring them and city officials if those efforts are unsuccessful. The rain date is 3 p.m. Sunday, March 20.

  • MonkeyTown

    Beware Delachaise … this is the same council woman who allowed, overnight, the developer of the Sarah Mayo Hospital to proceed with 211 units … it was originally ~100 units. Cantrell needs to give the “affordability” argument a break … it’s getting old.

  • boathead12

    It’s a tax exempt property. He’s going to take government money, get a waiver to maximize the profit potential and pay the city nothing as he collects market rent from his tenants.

  • Jane Patience

    Dear me, Ms. Cantrell, I wonder why you didn’t accept this same argument from the neighborhood when you allowed a property developer to demolish 825 Gen. Pershing St.? We wanted it to return to commerce as housing stock; you pushed to demolish it for a parking lot. It is now a blighted lot that is not maintained. Voters have long memories and see where you place your influence.

    • boathead12

      Hi Jane, I’ve not walked by that lot on 825 General Pershing lately, but I am shocked to hear that it is now blighted and not maintained as Ecole Bilingue reached some arrangement and landscaped it quite nicely only months ago. That is a bizarre turn of events.

      • Jane Patience

        Good to know! It was a blighted pile of trash for a very long time after demolition. And it was viable housing stock prior to demolition.

  • Shannon Cravens

    Soooooo, am I understanding this correctly? The owner of this building let it fall into a state of disrepair so terrible that the building actually fell down, and then has the nerve to ask the govt. for money to rebuild it? HUH?! Does this turn anyone else’s stomach?!

  • boathead12

    I did go to Fete Francais this weekend, and that lot would do you proud as vacant lots go.

  • The Goat

    Owner with a history of being a bad caretaker for their property and now is trying to suck up more government money to get a free ride to build a big apartment unit in the sky to yet again be another corrupt NOLA minister ripping off their church and the population they “minister” to. I’m curious as to where this property is with paying it’s taxes or did the “minister” put it under his church’s name so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Bad past behavior is a good indicator of bad future behavior and this “minister” doesn’t deserve any special treatment so only allow a double!!!

    • boathead12

      I did look it up. Tax Exempt.