900 New Orleans Structures Face FEMA-Funded Wrecking Ball

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed in March to resume paying for the demolition of New Orleans buildings damaged in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the Times-Picayune reported (“ FEMA to restart program for demolishing Katrina-damaged buildings in New Orleans,” by Michelle Krupa). Now, the paper reports that Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office has released a list of properties slated for planned demolition (“ About 900 buildings in New Orleans are cleared for FEMA-financed demolition,” by Michelle Krupa). “The roster includes 830 residential properties and 38 commercial buildings, with the bulk concentrated in two ZIP codes -- 70119, which covers much of Mid-City, and 70117, which comprises Bywater, St. Roch and the Lower 9th Ward -- that suffered significant flooding after the 2005 storm,” the paper reports. “Eastern New Orleans neighborhoods in ZIP code 70126, which straddles the Industrial Canal, also stand to lose a large number of properties.” Tens of thousands of New Orleans properties are considered blighted, but demolition of Katrina-damaged units stalled in recent years, the paper reports: “Immediately after Katrina, FEMA directed the Army Corps of Engineers to demolish about 4,650 properties in New Orleans, many at the request of owners. City Hall took over the effort in late 2007 and ordered contractors to raze another 1,662 properties, with FEMA picking up the $30 million tab. When the program ended in March 2009, the city still had about 3,000 properties on its demolition list, Jeff Hebert, Landrieu's blight czar, said, adding that the reason for the stoppage remains a mystery to him.” City officials now plan to put the demolition program back in gear. But some properties may be spared. “While Landrieu often cites residents' eagerness at community meetings last summer for the city to raze nuisance properties, preservationists and others have pressed officials to try to find buyers who will renovate whenever possible,” the Times-Picayune reports. “Officials announced Thursday that they will stop requesting demolition permits for nuisance properties that do not threaten public safety and are located in local historic districts or are designated as local historic landmarks.”