General Laundry building designated city landmark, fines issued for unpermitted demolitions, and other updates from recent HDLC meeting

The New Orleans Historic District Landmarks Commission on Wednesday (Feb. 1) designated the General Laundry Cleaners and Dyers building as a city landmark after hearing a short summary of the long history of the Art Deco rarity at 2525 Lafitte Ave.

At the HDLC meeting, a lawyer for the building’s owner, Southern Recycling, said the owner did not object to the landmark designation for the façade but requested that the metal-framed warehouse not be included. However, since the two portions were both original to the 1930 structure, the HDLC voted unanimously to designate the entire building a city landmark. The building had survived previous demolition proposals by the U.S. Postal Service and Southern Recycling, which withdrew its demolition request in 2014.

The commission’s meeting began with a presentation on code enforcement by Tom Mulligan, the deputy chief administrative officer overseeing the group of city agencies that includes code enforcement, safety and permits, and historic preservation commissions. The group discussed the pathways to demolition and auction of blighted properties by the city, fines charged to the owners of blighted property, and the challenge of securing vacant buildings.

The HDLC insisted that the walls of a Marigny cottage demolished without proper permits be rebuilt using the original brick-between-posts construction technique and imposed a fine of $5,000 for the violation. Commissioners appeared skeptical of the mea culpa of a Mid-City property owner whose contractor exceeded the extent of approved wall and foundation demolition on a corner store turned camelback. They levied a fine of $15,980, which was 63 percent of the maximum allowable to correlates with the 63 percent of walls removed. The owner of a wood-framed double in Parkview was spared a fine for excessive demolition after sharing photo documentation of the excessive termite damage uncovered during renovation and the extent of material salvaged for use in the reconstruction.

Earlier in the day, the separate commission for historic resources in the Central Business District deferred action on a proposal to name Plaza Tower a city landmark at the request of a representative of the owner, Joe Jaeger. The HDLC staff stated that while they feel strongly that the building has architectural and engineering significance, their hope is to spur its return to commerce.

To see how the commissions ruled on other topics on their agendas, view the full meetings on the New Orleans City Council YouTube channel.

Nathan Lott is PRC’s Policy Research Director and Advocacy Coordinator.