A contentious request to demolish an old warehouse on Tulane Avenue passed the New Orleans City Council earlier this month, despite failing twice to get approval from members of the Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee.
The plan, put forth by a contractor associated with the New York real estate development firm The Feil Organization, comes amid a flurry of requests for demolition and redevelopment along the corridor, many made by that same company.
Representatives of the Feil Organization have discussed several ideas about what they would like to put in the building’s place, all of which would support the area’s growing identity as a medical district. Among the suggestions is a hotel that would cater to long-term visitors, including those visiting relatives staying in either the VA Hospital or the University Medical Center.
Developers said they needed to start from scratch to best realize that vision. Over the summer, however several members of the NCDAC staff suggested that the building be preserved, rather than replaced, saying they believed the structure was of historic value.
The property is located at 2537 Tulane Avenue, located on the corner of South Dorgenois Street. According to a Sanborn Map provided as part of the demolition application packet given to the city, the building was constructed in 1927 by the Famous Company, a manufacturer of men and boys summer suits.
Famous merged with Sternberg Manufacturing Company and relocated to a larger space in the Maginnis building in 1936, according to the documents. The Pepsi Bottling Company then took over the lease in 1937, and the Tulane Avenue building became a Pepsi-Cola plant.
Although the majority of the NCDAC voted against the demolition, the issue went before City Council with “no recommendation.”
During the last City Council meeting, Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell spoke in favor of the demolition, as she said the riddance of the old warehouse building will pave the way for a new contribution to the bourgeoning throughway.
“As you know much love and investment is occurring on Tulane, and I’m very excited and proud of that,” Cantrell said. “The applicant’s intent to either develop an extended stay or retail residential development. Either way it will be a perfect addition to Tulane Avenue.”
Cantrell also noted that the demolition proposal had the “full support” of the Tulane-Canal Neighborhood Association. In the past, TCNA President Jacob Rickoll has criticized the NCDAC’s approach to favoring preservation even if it means possibly stymieing the city’s development.
The project’s contractor, Katina Spera, has frequently said the owner wanted to demolish the building because it was in “very poor” condition, and had been vacant since Hurricane Katrina.
Among other structural problems, the building was missing portions of the roof and cinder block walls.
The City Council voted to approve the demolition unanimously after no debate.