By ROBIN SHANNON
Published/Last Modified on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 10:42 PM CST
St. John Parish Officials on Tuesday celebrated the long-awaited demolition of an abandoned housing unit that was destroyed by fire in 2008.
Housing Authority commissioners gathered with council members and Parish President Natalie Robottom to watch the unit, located with the LaPlace Oaks public housing complex, start to come down.
The Housing Authority intends to use the property, located directly in front of the agency’s main office, as a green space and playground.
“There are nearly 100 children in this complex with no real place to play outside,” said Housing Authority Executive Director Trina Henderson. “This is a first step in our efforts to bring public housing up to a higher standard.”
In addition to the burned out fourplex, Henderson said contractors with Gill Industries will also be tearing down an abandoned duplex nearby. The Housing Authority approved a $52,000 contract with the Belle Chasse firm for demolition and asbestos abatement in November.
Housing Authority Commissioner Art Smith said in November that the abandoned unit has been home to assorted criminal activity and the fragile state of the structure is a danger to residents, specifically children.
Henderson said the position of the property is an advantage for the Housing Authority and law enforcement because cameras affixed to the main office building will be able to monitor actions at the green space.
“Now that our needs assessment has been completed, we can start to look at other properties that need to be torn down within all of the complexes,” Henderson said. “These are just two of several that need to be considered, but it is a delicate process.”
Keith Broyard, a project superintendent for Gill Industries, said the demolition crew will work throughout the day to tear down the unit. It is expected to be down to a slab today. He said the slab will be pulled up today and work will start Thursday on the duplex.
Henderson said the Housing Authority is still in the middle of the application process with a non-profit group known as KaBoom, which built playground equipment in various communities in the New Orleans area. She said there is no established timetable for the project.
“We are just happy to see this property come down,” Henderson said. “It is a start.”