Feb 202011
 

Interior of American Legion hall on Magazine Street (via Upper Hurstville Neighborhood Association)

The purchase and renovation of the old American Legion building on Magazine Street will cost nearly $6 million, requiring a tenant that can pay approximately $600,000 per year for the lease, the developer eying the property for a possible Walgreens told neighborhood leaders on Friday.

Stirling Properties plans to replace the brick facade with a glass wall, preserve some of the American Legion features inside the building and add a drive-through to the 40-space parking lot in the rear. Although the commercial zoning would allow the store to stay open 24 hours and sell alcohol, current plans are to do neither, closing instead at 10 p.m., the representatives of three neighborhoods surrounding the site wrote in a letter to members Sunday evening.

The neighborhood leaders recommended the developer call a meeting with the public to discuss the project, the letter says, but no date has been announced.

Read the full letter below:

Dear ARNA, Hurtsville, and Upper Hurtsville neighbors,

You may know that a prospective developer of the Magazine Street American Legion site asked to meet with representatives of Hurstville, Upper Hurtsville, and ARNA to discuss a possible development on the site. The development is very preliminary at this point, and the meeting was for the sole purpose of providing information to the neighborhood associations early on in the process. Most of us have concerns about this project, but we think it’s a good sign that the developer wants to involve the neighborhood.

The large volume of input we each received from neighbors was extremely helpful to us in this meeting, and enabled us to ask better questions and express potential concerns to the developer.

The ARNA, Hurtsville, and Upper Hurtsville association representatives have jointly compiled some notes from the meeting that may be helpful in understanding more about this project. These notes follow this, and we have attached photos of the interior of the Legion Hall.

We will provide more information to our members as soon as it’s available, and expect there will be some forum or forums to ask questions of the developer, express our concerns, etc., in the near future as this develops.

Upper Hurtsville Neighborhood Assocation

Audubon Riverside Neighborhood Association

Hurtsville Neighborhood Association

_____________________________________________

NOTES FROM 2/18/11 MEETING WITH STIRLING PROPERTIES AND STIRLING ARCHITECT WAGGONNER

UPPER HURSTVILLE, HURSTVILLE AND ARNA NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATIONS

  • Building built in 1948 as American Legion Hall, renovated in the 1960s.
  • Property is under purchase contract for $3.3 million
  • Likely to cost $2.5 million to renovate
  • $600,000 a year lease income needed to make the investment profitable
  • Walgreens has not yet committed; property will still need review from the Walgreens real estate committee
  • 83 ft. frontage on Magazine
  • Approx 8000 sq ft retail space
  • 10,000 sq current footprint would remain the exact same (though zoning would allow 25,000 square feet).
  • 3,000 sq ft. second story will be storage; cannot be used for customer service due to fire code. Would need elevator
  • Structure cannot support any additional stories without significant demolition and structural modification, so although the zoning would permit building up to a 55 foot height, there are no plans to go any higher than the existing structure.
  • The structure is sound, Butler steel structure
  • Renovation will keep the structure and the current footprint
  • No requirement for any zoning variance, rezoning or conditional uses will be needed with the current plans
  • No pile driving or demolition required
  • Stirling will tear off front and back of property facades only and replace. Also replace the roof
  • No expansion possible in the future, as would need zoning variance and would need to raise the building
  • Stirling has not purchased adjacent buildings (Little Laughter)
  • Local ownership, local contractor, and local architects (Waggoner and Ball, Barry Fox)
  • Parking will be currently approx 40 spaces. The parking lot size will remain unchanged.
  • City of N.O. is currently conducting a traffic study in the area
  • Stirling will maintain control of the parking lot, no matter who leases the building.
  • Stirling plans to keep the current floor, including the original American Legion emblem inlays. Also wants to keep other wall hangings and architectural features that signify the history as a Legion building.

Because Walgreen’s has not committed to lease the property, the following additional facts are based on Stirling experience with other Walgreen’s properties and discussion with Walgreen’s about this property:

  • Based on recent experience with properties in other historic districts, Walgreens does not require “big box” type of suburban store design, but allows it to be locally designed, and in local scales.
  • Planning a drive through in the back through the parking lot
  • Plan to be open 8am-10pm, and same hours for the drive through. However, 24-hour operation not precluded by zoning
  • Although not restricted by zoning, does not plan to sell liquor
  • Working plan for façade is all glass, with a partial height wall behind the glass to hide register and merchandise from street view, horizontal design elements above the entrance, which is located right of center. Roofline remains flat.
  • Tchoupitoulas store will close (nearing lease end, no drive through, not centered in population, no pedestrian traffic)
  • Magazine St. location desirable because of foot traffic, surrounded by potential customers, proximity to Whole Foods, ability to have a drive through.

Recommendation:

The neighborhoods represented suggested to Stirling that they plan an open neighborhood meeting for all interested parties to listen to concerns.

  • JK

    This makes more sense if the Tchop location will close.

    Speaking of that Tchop location, some developer needs to go in and totally redo that strip mall. Winn Dixie is horrible. Why anyone would go there instead of driving the five minutes to Rouses is beyond me.

  • alli

    A drive-through? They must be joking.

    “We want a location with more pedestrian traffic, so we can put in a drive-through.” ?!?!?!?

    What the area needs is appropriately-priced parking. And yes, that means parking needs to be more expensive. The cost of free parking is horrible traffic and congestion. The sidewalks should be wider and there should be a painted pedestrian crossing (with timed signal) at Magazine & Joseph.

    The neighborhood is in that awful space between too dense for existing traffic, but not dense enough to get rid of the traffic. It would be much more pleasant if people would walk or bike there instead of driving, so make parking more expensive and make it more economical to walk or bike!

    Drive through drugstores are not going to accomplish that. Go away, Walgreens.

    • JK

      There is actually a city planner, based I believe at UCLA, who argues that we have it all wrong with parking/housing. Instead of cheap parking and expensive housing, cities should promote cheap housing and expensive parking. I forget the details, but it made sense at the time.

      • alli

        Yes, Donald Shoup. This is a good primer on his thinking although the article’s written by Tyler Cowen.

        Basically, what drivers want is an available parking space. The more drivers that want an available space, the more expensive it should be (the price is bid up through increased demand). If the price is artificially low or FREE, then everyone will use it and there will be no available spaces. The solution to problems of “not enough parking” is to make it more expensive, not to add more free parking.

  • Nate

    At this point, shouldn’t the Uptown folks just buy miniature white boards with a large NO printed on the top half so the injustice of the day can be scribbled in and then wiped away when the next trouble pops up? Get puffed up, Uptown. Get ready for the big fight. Get ready to lose. Again.

    • JPK

      Nate: I like your sarcasm. As an Uptowner, I agree with the need to preserve. However, Uptowners (including myself) can be narrow-minded at times, creating controversy where none should exist, sometimes forcing developers to ask for much more than they really want just to fall back on a compromise that, had it been proposed in the beginning, would not have been far off of the mark.

      Case in point where something was really made out of nothing: Gabrielle.