More than a decade after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, plans are in motion for redeveloping a blighted former shopping center along Robert E. Lee Boulevard in Gentilly.
In recent years, New Orleans officials have battled with developer Kenneth Charity over the vacant Lake Terrace strip mall. It flooded during Katrina in 2005 and often was referenced as part of the city’s wider push to tackle its blight problem.
City officials announced last week that the site had been sold to local developer Kenneth Lobell, who plans to redevelop it to include a First NBC Bank branch and about 6,500 square feet of retail space.
As a stipulation of the deal, the city will receive $100,000 to clear outstanding code enforcement liens and fines that were imposed against Charity’s DMK Acquisitions and Properties LLC. The company bought the property in 2007 for $1.35 million.
City officials called the payment “the largest single code enforcement fine paid to-date.”
The deal includes a set time frame for Lobell to get the property back online. He’s required to apply for a demolition permit for the site within seven days of the purchase. The property is to be demolished within the subsequent 60 days. Lobell then will have six months to begin work on the new development.
It’s unclear when the sale was completed or for how much. Lobell did not return a call Monday, and city officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The city had moved to take action against Charity, citing the lack of activity at the site in recent years. The Lens reported last year that the city had given DMK $225,000 to rehabilitate the shopping center in 2009 and 2010, but that the company did not live up to its end of the deal. Ultimately, it owed the city more than $33,000 in delinquent property taxes and interest.
As word of the sale spread, local residents expressed optimism that the deal will breathe new life into a long-blighted section of Gentilly.
“Now that it’s changed hands, we can look forward to making this a vibrant corridor that’s ripe for economic development and commerce,” said City Councilman Jared Brossett, whose district includes the site.
After so many years, Karen Parsons, a board member and former president of the Oak Park Civic Association, said she had grown frustrated at times with the slow pace and lack of development at the site.
She’s hopeful a coffee shop or pharmacy will open at the shopping center, as residents look forward to some of the amenities they once enjoyed.
“We’ve always tried to keep our hopes up, but I think we’d gotten a little disillusioned after nine years,” she said.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.