With relatively minor opposition, both a corner store’s request to reopen on Jackson Avenue in the Irish Channel and the conversion of a residentially-zoned building on General Pershing into the childcare center for Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle Orleans received the approval of the City Planning Commission on Tuesday afternoon.
Ecole Bilingue plans to put six classrooms and a cafeteria inside the old two-story house at 812 General Pershing, remodel the garage at into a playroom and install outdoor playground equipment, but it needs city council approval before it can use the house as a child-care center under its current zoning, according to the preliminary report filed with the City Planning Commission. No one from the school spoke on behalf of the project, but Travis Guilbault, a neighbor on Constance Street, asked the commission to deny the request on the grounds that the school will increase noise and traffic in the neighborhood and consume on-street parking – despite a planned 27-space parking lot for the school.
“That parking lot does not seem sufficient,” Guilbault said.
The commission voted 7-0 to send Ecole Bilingue’s request to the city council with its approval, subject to a number of conditions. The school’s enrollment will be limited to 85 students, the outdoor playgrounds must be screened in and the chain-link fence around the property must be replaced with something more decorative, the provisos read. Commissioner Louis Volz also frowned on Guilbault’s statement that he only learned of the school’s plans at its recent fair.
“Perhaps between now and when this matter goes before the city council, I would hope the applicant and the neighborhood can get together and discuss this,” Volz said.
The commission also gave a 7-0 vote of approval to plans by the Tran family to reopen their corner store (formerly known as TNT Food Store) at 548 Jackson Avenue to sell seafood, po-boys and groceries. Zoned residential, the store needed neighborhood-business zoning before it could reopen, and won the hesitant approval of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association several months ago. Although association members said they felt the store previously had a tendency to attract crime, they were won over by the owners’ plans for a seafood market, and the city planning commission on Tuesday similarly accepted the owners’ assurances over a few immediate neighbors’ concerns about its upkeep.
“It was a meeting place for some neighbors who wanted to hang out on the corner,” said Monroe Coleman, owner of Coleman Cab in the 600 block of Jackson. Those customers used to eat on the sidewalk while waiting for the bus and throw their trash on the ground, Coleman said.
Phi Tran told the council that they would supply trash cans outside for customers to use.
“We will do our best to keep the area clean, and everything nice and neat,” she said.
No provisos were recommended by the planning commission, but the commissioners did have a copy of the “good neighbor” agreement between the Tran family and the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association, which stipulates against video poker, the sale of alcohol, outdoor music, loitering and requires the store to close at 8 p.m. Planning staffers noted that the agreement is essentially unenforceable by the city, and is considered a civil agreement between the owners and the neighborhood.