Port Demolishes Last Kaiser BuildingOct 14th, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: Top Story
Aside from its smokestack, a St. Bernard landmark, nothing remains of the old Kaiser Aluminum plant in Chalmette. This month, the St. Bernard Port, Harbor and Terminal District, completed the demolition of the last remaining structure— a potline building.
When the Kaiser plant opened in 1951 it quickly became an economic engine for the Parish, as it coincided with the urban development of Chalmette as well as the rest of St. Bernard. It was the largest primary aluminum plant in the United States, employing 2,700 workers. Kaiser officials in the 1950’s estimated that the plant produced approximately 400 million pounds of aluminum per year, or more than the entire pre-World War II production of the country.
The Port purchased this property in 1989 for $3.8 million, after Kaiser shut its doors in 1988. In a 1992 Times-Picayune article, Kaiser officials cited “a decreased market for aluminum and increasing fuel costs” for closing the plant.
“Kaiser really made a good decision when they decided to sell their property to the Port,” said Executive Director, Robert Scafidel. “They could have sold it to some big corporation or some outsider, but instead they allowed it to become the anchor for the Port. This decision ultimately became a major asset to the Parish because as the Port continues to grow, we are becoming more and more of an economic powerhouse—we are certainly helping to drive the economy of St. Bernard.”
In a sense, the Port is picking up where Kaiser left off. Though the company shut down in the late 80’s, in its heyday, Kaiser Aluminum was king. In fact, if it were not for Kaiser, many nearby neighborhoods would never have been built. Areas such as Chalmette Vista were constructed specifically to house Kaiser’s many workers, so not only did Kaiser help build the Parish’s economy, but it also built the Parish physically.
Scafidel said he is proud that the Port has created nearly 2,000 jobs and is bringing more than 10 million tons of cargo into the Parish every year.
The Port has slowly been turning the old Kaiser property into its business park, and with the introduction of their latest tenant, Southern Forest Products (SFP), the park is almost at full capacity. The cleared space created by the demolition of the last Kaiser structure will become SFP’s yard space in which they can store lumber prior to exportation.