Six Flags reimagined? City board hears proposals for abandoned New Orleans East site _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The former Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans East Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

The 220-acre site of the derelict Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans East is worth $3.26 million and the scrap value of its dilapidated rides would be essentially negated by the cost of removing them, according to a private appraisal ordered by the city’s Industrial Development Board.

The details of the McEnery Co.'s 200-plus-page report, which pegs the value of the main park at $3 million and an adjacent, undeveloped 65-acre site at $260,000, were released by the board at its monthly meeting Tuesday. A decision on what to do next won’t be made until at least next month.

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The board did vote unanimously to have a title search, an environmental survey and a phase one environmental assessment done because any choice the board makes about the park’s future will need those tasks to be completed.

The value cited by the private appraisal is a far cry from the $54.5 million appraisal on file at the city assessor’s office, though not terribly shocking for what has essentially become a wildlife sanctuary visited occasionally by vandals and urban explorers.

IDB President Alan Philipson said he isn’t surprised at the appraised value, saying he was expecting something between $3 million and $5 million.

The value works out to about $18,500 an acre on the main property and $4,000 per acre on the secondary one, which IDB attorney David Wolf said is essentially unpermitted wetlands in need of mitigation before any development could happen. “It’s essentially 65 aces of marshland,” he said.

Annual operating expenses for the site -- grass cutting, insurance and security -- come to $210,000, with the bulk of that going to the $14,000 per month spent on providing round-the-clock security.

The board doesn’t really have the luxury of just hanging onto the property. Its $421,000 fund balance is due to dry up within two years at current cost levels, Philipson said.

“Personally, I hope that you all will find something to do with this before the money runs out,” he said to nods of agreement from some board members.

Options include trying to sell some of the rides, clearing the property, listing it for sale, putting it up for auction or donating it to the city. The board also could hire a real estate management company for as long as it holds the property.

Board member Susan Good said she cannot imagine anyone wanting to reuse Jazzland’s rides, though Wolf said the IDB has been saving the names and contact information of those who have inquired over the years.

Removing the rides, Good said, “would take away 75 percent of our problem with people trespassing.”

“Unless the city can come up with a very good reason to keep the metal out there, I totally think we should remove it,” she said.

Member C. David Thompson agreed, saying the park’s current condition makes it “an urban jungle gym” for curiosity seekers.

Thompson and Vice President Darrel Saizan, however, agreed that the board might want to check with a national consultant before clearing the site to be sure it isn’t a mistake that could decrease the value to potential buyers.

Board members said the environmental survey is important to assess the cause and extent of standing water, which become a potential problem at the site over the last few years.

Lynette Sparrow of the Oak Island Homeowners Association said the park’s current condition is a drag on the quality of life of nearby homeowners. She said the standing water on the site has coincided with more and more sewer back-ups and the water is often more like green slime.

“We never had that before,” she said. “And the mosquitoes are so terrible you can’t go outside when it’s dark.”

Tanya Pope, president of Jazzland Theme Park, one of the groups that has submitted a redevelopment proposal to the IDB, noted the appraised value is close to her group’s proposed amount. She indicated it would still be interested in buying or bidding on the property.


Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.