SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The property owner for Don’s Seafood says that he’s trusting the private contractors chosen to get paper work turned in to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). He says that they needed more time to get proper licensing.
Mohammad Awwad says he’s been the owner of the structure for about ten years. The Highland Neighborhood Association holds it in high regard because of it’s history, but when he’s tried to sale the property nobody has wanted to purchase due to it’s condition.
“Because it’s old. Now all of a sudden everybody’s giving so much feeling and emotions but nobody cared in the past. All of them in the Highland Association went against me. I wanted a funeral home there. They opposed it. I wanted a liquor store there. They opposed it. I wanted to put so many businesses there and they always went to oppose it,” said Awwad.
He says he believes their opposition for change is because he’s of middle-eastern decent. When he pitched a funeral home business he says it would have been Black owned.
He also blames the association for the building burning down back in January.
“They kept denying any business that wants to go there and now look at the results. Homeless people got in there and burned it.”
The Shreveport Fire Department classified the fire as an arson and there’s still an active investigation into who caused it.
The structure was demolished at the beginning of summer. It was scheduled for clean up July 23.
In a Facebook live video district B city councilwoman, Levette Fuller says she lives only three blocks away from the rubble. She says that the Highland neighborhood is the center of the city with diverse socio-economic groups. For her, the rubble is a visual representation of neglect for community.
“Our property standards office has been on top of this. They’ve been in touch with the contractors from the beginning and the owner. Originally the company that was suppose to do the work and started the work was chosen because they had licensing to do the asbestos litigation. But it turns out that their licensing lapsed,” said Fuller.
She says that Don’s Seafood held a lot of memories for people in the community, and when it closed they wanted to make sure something valuable for people living in and around the area was going to be in it’s place.
“A couple of those proposals would have required rezoning. The community didn’t want those things so the projects went aside. For me at this point, the building burning and becoming rubble is keeping us from having closure and be able to move on to have something new.”
Fuller says the Department of Environmental Quality asked contractors to cease working on the property until they could get their licensing taken care of. A new contractor was brought in to do the training for asbestos removal. She says that new company is taking care of the removal portion and has to get paper work sorted out with the DEQ.
Press secretary for the department Greg Langley says they found small amounts of asbestos in a couple of places. It was detected before being burned down.
“When it burned that sort of mingled all of the material together so we had to treat it as asbestos collectively,” said Langley.
Awwad says that community complaints about it shouldn’t be an issue.
“It was in the back of the kitchen which was in the back of the building now under the rubble. It’s not exposed to anybody. It’s underground. When they tore the building down all of the rubble went above that room,” said Awwad.
He understands after it burns there’s no way to determine where it went. He also says he’s already signed the paper work on the contractors behalf to submit to the DEQ.
Langley says paper should be resolved quickly, but he hasn’t received any communication from the property owners or the city.
Awwad says he’s in more of rush than anyone else. His original contractors brought on the subcontractors and they’re who he’s waiting on. His plan is to develop the property into a shopping center to lease out to other business store owners.