May 4, 2023 - Real Estate

New Orleans considers demolition of oldest skyscraper Plaza Tower

The Plaza Tower building is viewed from below in downtown New Orleans.

Photo: Infrogmation of New Orleans/Wikimedia Commons

The city is floating the idea of demolishing Plaza Tower, Mayor LaToya Cantrell confirmed Wednesday, calling the blighted skyscraper an “issue and a challenge for decades.”

Driving the news: Joe Jaeger owns the building, and he's looking to sell. Tuesday was the deadline for bids, Cantrell said.

  • Jaeger told he received “a half dozen offers,” but it will take months to assess them.

Yes, but: The city was told Jaeger’s company would legally challenge a demolition, so officials are exploring other options first.

Catch up quick: Plaza Tower is one of the city's biggest blighted buildings.

  • The 45-story skyscraper was the city's first when it was built in the 1960s and has been vacant for about 20 years.
  • It was supposed to be part of a row of other tall buildings on Loyola Avenue, but those developments were built on Poydras Street instead.
  • Jaeger, who owns several hotels in town, bought the building in 2014 from Bryan Burns, a year after it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Jaeger’s vision for the building, according to his website, was to renovate it into 90 luxury apartments, 200 hotel rooms and 195,000 square feet of parking.

Threat level: Falling debris from the building has been problematic for at least two years, when a cyclist was hit.

  • Last month, there was a fire, and later a man died after falling from the tower.
  • The owners installed safety netting, but falling debris remains a problem, especially on windy days.
  • The city on Tuesday closed South Rampart Street indefinitely near the tower “out of an abundance of caution due to risk of falling debris.”
  • Cantrell on Wednesday ruled out fining the owner: “It doesn’t make the building safer. ... Fines just don’t trigger a solution.”

What’s next: The mayor said being aggressive with blight is a priority for her this year.

  • Her office will release a list of a “dirty dozen” blighted properties, and Plaza Tower is on the list.
  • “We have some armpits, and I want to highlight those armpits in order to get them into compliance.”
  • Other buildings she says are on the list are the Canal Street Hotel and the Lindy Boggs Medical Center.

Of note: Messages left for Jaeger at his companies — MCC Real Estate Group and J Hospital & Development — were not immediately returned.


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