The request to tear down a multi-unit home on Broadway Street was withdrawn Thursday following opposition from neighbors, City Council officials said.
Property owner Caroline Wendt had sought to tear down the home at 1407 Broadway and replace it with new construction after discovering that renovations would be more costly than she expected, she told neighbors earlier this year. She had owned it since 1995 and rented it as a three-unit rental to students, but she found water intrusion and structural issues with the ground-floor units increasingly problematic, she said.
None of the renovation options she considered were likely to be recovered in rents, she said, so she reluctantly decided upon demolition and new construction.
“The advantage of new construction as a two-family property, without the cost of elevating the property, is financially feasible,” she wrote to neighbors in September.
Neighbors voiced concern and the Preservation Resource Center expressed opposition to the demolition as far back as August. The Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee, which oversees demolition requests, heard Wendt’s plan at its Oct. 3 meeting — as well as additional concerns from preservationists and neighbors.
“It was designed with a raised main living floor precisely because it’s in a flood zone. Traditionally those ground floors were meant to absorb our routine flooding, and as time went on people inhabited them,” said Eleanor Burke, deputy director of the Historic Districts Landmarks Commission. “But I don’t see how we could justify demolishing buildings because we desire to live on a floor that was never meant to be inhabited. Your building was actually built as a vernacular response to the routine flooding in that area, and we should preserve that building that works well in its flood zone as it’s constructed.”
Four neighbors appeared at the Oct. 3 meeting to speak against the project, and Mary Collins — who lives two houses away — presented the committee with letters from 11 people she said were opposed. The construction of the ground floor supports Burke’s contention that it wasn’t intended as living space, Collins said.
“It wasn’t designed to be lived in, and it was that way when she bought it,” Collins said. “…I think the neighbors would all like Ms. Wendt to renovate the house.”
Devin Barnett, however, who lives next door, countered that the house is beyond saving.
“Nobody here would want to live in this house,” Barnett said. “If you’ve seen it, it’s pretty nasty.”
NCDAC member Helen Jones said she would be concerned about setting a precedent of allowing the demolition of raised homes simply because their lower floors receive water. Ultimately, the NCDAC members voted unanimously to recommend against allowing the demolition, sending the request to the City Council for a final decision.
On Thursday (Nov. 3), the request was scheduled to come before the New Orleans City Council, but the clerk announced that it had been withdrawn at the applicant’s request.