Blighted New Orleans fire station back on auction block


Posted on December 12, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 12 at 7:40 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Right in the middle of a thriving corner in old Gentilly sits a blighted and abandoned city fire house, built in 1939.

The building at Elysian Fields and Gentilly Boulevard has been vacant since 2005. That's when the New Orleans Recreation Department last used it for storage.

Over the years neighbors tried to buy it.

"We were even interested in it, so where several other business people in the community here. It's a great little, neat building," said Lee LeFleur at Mike's Hardware.

"There was just one thing after the other led to where it wouldn't go up for auction or I couldn't purchase it and finally the storm came and everything changed after that," said Dr. Michael Kleamenakis, a Gentilly optometrist.

According to city documents, the fire station did go up for sale in January 2008, and it sold to Joyce and Christopher Matthews for $165,010. But, the full purchase price was never paid.

Records show the Matthews wrote a personal check to the city to cover the cost of the fire house and the check bounced. Now, after nearly six years of legal wrangling and government red tape, the building is finally back on the auction block.

Dr. Kleamenakis blames the city for the condition of the property.

"It's a breeding ground for animals, stray animals and garbage. As you tell, the grass is rarely cut," said Kleamenakis. "If we owned that building, we'd be with so many regulatory fines on us right now, we couldn't afford it."

LaFleur said it's taken way to long to get the building back on the market.

"Somebody dropped the ball and in my opinion, somebody needs to be held accountable," said LeFleur. "I may try to make the auction myself, just to see. Hopefully it goes through this time."

Regardless of what happened during the first auction, neighbors are hoping that the second time is the charm and somebody will finally buy the old fire house and put it back into commerce.

"I'm hoping obviously it gets renovated and cleaned up and hopefully it doesn't get torn down because it is an original piece of Gentilly," said LeFleur.

"This is old Gentilly," said Kleamenakis. "For years and years, businesses have been on this corner and in the whole quadrant right here. It's still a good location."

The fire house, along with several other city properties are up for auction Friday morning at 10 a.m., in the New Orleans City Council Chambers. The opening bid is for the fire station is $176,000.