Ruling allows city to move on strip mall

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER A Civil District Court judge Tuesday upheld the city’s code enforcement action against the owners of the old Lake Terrace Shopping Center at Paris Avenue and Robert E. Lee Boulevard in Gentilly. The owners can still appeal the decision to the 4th Circuit, but in the meantime the city may begin to try to take action to return the structure to commerce.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER A Civil District Court judge Tuesday upheld the city’s code enforcement action against the owners of the old Lake Terrace Shopping Center at Paris Avenue and Robert E. Lee Boulevard in Gentilly. The owners can still appeal the decision to the 4th Circuit, but in the meantime the city may begin to try to take action to return the structure to commerce.

A Civil District Court judge upheld the city’s code enforcement action against the Lake Terrace Shopping Center, a Gentilly strip mall that has sat gutted since Hurricane Katrina.

The decision clears the way for the city to take its own action, which could include anything from expropriation to foreclosure or even demolition.

DMK Acquisitions and Properties LLC bought the property, located at Robert E. Lee Boulevard and Paris Avenue, in April 2007 for $1.3 million, according to assessor’s office records. Since the transaction, the strip mall has remained static, prompting the city to declare in June that the property owner is guilty of blight and public nuisance.

The city has fined Ken Charity, DMK’s managing director, $15,575, the maximum amount state law allows for blighted structures.

While the company can appeal Judge Lloyd Medley’s decision, the city will continue its efforts to return the property to commerce, said Ryan Berni, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Attempts to contact Charity were unsuccessful Tuesday.

In a prepared statement, Landrieu said he was pleased with Medley’s decision.

“His ruling helps advance the city’s goal of remediating this eyesore and restoring the quality of life for those neighborhoods,” Landrieu said.

Before the August 2005 storm, the Lake Terrace Shopping Center was home to a mix of small business, including a coffee shop, drug store and veterinarian’s office. Despite the site being one of former Recovery Czar Ed Blakely’s 17 recovery target zones, nothing happened there beyond the gutting and construction of a chain link fence around the property’s perimeter.

Dalton Savwoir Jr., president of the Gentilly Civic Neighborhood Association, said the area has a dearth of retail and needs the shopping center to reopen as soon as possible. “It’s very badly needed,” he said.

Noting that Charity has made previous claims of funding that do not appear to have made a difference and that he has faced scrutiny from the city and court, Savwoir said the time has come to move on and let someone else redevelop the site.

“We definitely realize Mr. Charity has his rights to appeal, but we hope he listens to reason,” Savwoir said.