By Claire Byun
A raised multi-family building on Banks Street is still standing – at least for now – after a demolition request was denied by the Historic District Landmarks Commission last month.
The home, a small double shotgun on 4534 Banks St., garnered 12 different personal emails urging the HDLC to deny the demolition application. Many of those emails are from neighbors who said the home is repairable, especially given it’s historic quality.
“If the city begins allowing demolition of repairable historic properties purely for convenience, we will set an irrevocable precedent that could result in serious erosion of our National Register District, over time,” Jennifer Farwell, neighbor, wrote to HDLC.
Developers told the HDLC they want to redevelop the property into a mutli-family residential building. The property is listed as owned by Booker Enterprises LLC in Metairie, and L. Jeff Williams submitted the request for demolition.
Multiple people opposed demolition due to premium property values that a repairable historic home brings to the neighborhood. Instead of building a new structure – which completely removes any historic value – neighbors argued the old structure should be rehabilitated to cement the neighborhood’s image.
“As a near neighbor…I ask that the commission consider the age of the structure and its position as a fixture of the streetscape for nearly 100 years,” wrote Debra Voelker, who lives on Palmyra.
The property drew nine letters of demolition support, including one from Gayle Lockhart, who owns the home next to the structure in question. Lockhart said she supported the demolition so a newer home could be constructed, thus restoring the “beautiful corner.”
“It is long overdue for that unattended eyesore to remain in an otherwise lovely residential area,” Lockhart wrote the HDLC.
Other supporters cited the home’s structural damage as reason enough for demolition. Doris Lumpkin, who lives on Baudin Street, told the HDLC that the home’s historic value has been stripped over the past decades due to years of damage.
Stephanie Hoskins, who voiced support for the project, told the HDLC the project would add density to Mid-City while reducing blight. Hoskins argued it’s difficult to attract prospective developers to any properties south of Banks, and to deny this application would be denying beautification to “an important corner property.”
Officials from the Louisiana Landmarks Society, in a letter to the HDLC, argued the structure should be rehabilitated rather than removed.
“This raised double appears to be repairable and we believe it is always preferable to restore and renovate our historic houses rather than demolish them,” the society wrote.
A structural engineering report submitted to the HDLC determined the home is “structurally unsound to the extent that it is in immediate danger of collapse.” The report, which was performed by Gilbert Engineering Services, also stated repairs would not be economically feasible due to a large crack in the brick veneer, visible termite damage and old fire damage that was never repaired properly.
The commission’s report, however, says the exposed structure appears to be in good shape though portions of the home are in various stages of neglect, including and open wall and missing window. The HDLC report also states the ground floor has been gutted and several walls need patching.
Though the structure is damaged, the HDLC recommended denying demolition because “the building is not in imminent danger of collapse.” It is, however, in a state of Demolition by Neglect and requires immediate rehabilitation.
Williams has the chance to contest the HDLC’s decision at City Council.