Oct 042011
 

The apartment complex at State and Tchoupitoulas, photographed in August. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Concerned that an apartment complex at the corner of State and Tchoupitoulas may be headed for unwelcome commercial redevelopment, the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association delved into the arcana of the city’s land-use planning process Tuesday night to cast votes in favor of keeping the property residential.

The apartments, bought last December by investor Ben Gravolet, currently sit on land zoned for medical services. The city’s recently-adopted master plan envisions the land for low-density residential use, however, and Gravolet has requested that the property’s land-use be changed to “Mixed Use,” which allows any number of commercial uses.

Roger Gorman, director of development at Children’s Hospital, said he had been approached by Gravolet to buy or lease the property, and that when the hospital declined, Gravolet replied that he was negotiating with CVS pharmacy over the site. A resident near State and Tchoupitoulas himself, Gorman said that he would be opposed to that sort of development on his corner — as did several other nearby residents who attended the meeting as well.

“We have a sleepy little neighborhood,” said restaurateur Tiki McIntyre. “I’m strongly for this staying residential. … I’m going to fight tooth and nail for this one.”

Association board member Scott Wolfe replied that he had called Gravolet to invite him to the meeting — he did not end up attending — and that Gravolet denied plans for a CVS. If the city changes the land-use from medical services to low-density residential, however, that reduces the value of the property, Wolfe said, and Gravolet is likely seeking the commercial land use to protect his investment.

“I’m a free-enterprise guy, and I think he’s entitled to do that,” Wolfe said.

Board members pointed out that Gravolet purchased the property after the master plan had already been created, however, so he should have known about the pending land-use change. With that, they quickly voted 10-1 (with Wolfe opposing) to support the proposed change in land use to residential.

Association president Sara Meadows Tolleson said she believed that the property’s current use as apartments brings a welcome diversity in housing options to the neighborhood, and introduced a separate motion in support of allowing it multi-family residential zoning, different from the single-family zoning in the rest of the neighborhood. That idea also passed quickly by the same vote, 10-1.

The association’s recommendations will become part of two larger, citywide processes, explained Kelly Butler, a land-use specialist in Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s office. The land-use recommendation will be included in a Nov. 8 public hearing on master-plan amendments before the City Planning Commission, after which the commission will vote in December and the City Council will hear in January.

Requests for changes to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance — such as the multi-family designation for State and Tchoupitoulas — will be accepted until Nov. 2, Butler said. City planners will then release a new map incorporating all the changes sometime around Mardi Gras, and it may be approved then or amended further.

The meeting also included quick updates on Johnny V’s, the Walgreens on Magazine and a child-care facility planned for 315 Webster. To read our live coverage of the meeting, click “Replay” in the box below.

  • patty

    Make the neighborhood association, who is way out of control really happy. They want it diverse, make it section 8, and find the biggest crackheads possible to move in. They cant be mad, it is residential and diverse.

    • niska

      Agreed.

    • Nearby Neighbor

      Are you sure you are talking about the same neighborhood association who is out of control who let the pilates studio slip in on Magazine Street … or is that what you meant by out of control? In addition, this corner has a history of being Section 8 … so how is that any different? I believe the neighbors, neighborhood association, and all those who are vocal would like to keep the area residential to keep traffic and big development at a minimum. What is so wrong with that?

      • Derek

        Its not currently zoned residential its zoned for medical services. So anytime over the past few years it could have been developed as such. Why are people acting like the master plan is law already when it hasnt even been adopted?

  • Melissa

    It is offensive (and ignorant), patty, that you presume all persons receiving Section 8 assistance are “crackheads.” By supporting multi-family housing, the neighborhood association is seeking to bring a variety of people into the neighborhood – singles, elderly, etc. Not everyone can afford a massive mansion, but many people would like to enjoy living in this neighborhood. I personally would welcome an upgrade to the building that would bring in young professionals and those who are working hard to rebuild our city.

  • sue

    Isn’t it sad that we have to HAVE neighborhood associations at all. Isn’t this what we elect a council person to do — speak on our behalf! This has gotten completely out of control. I actually was told by my council woman’s office that if we wanted anything accomplished we HAD to have a neighborhood association. Sheer absurdity! Do your job you were elected to!!

  • Matt

    Ben Gravolet is the developer behind the CVS at the corner of Napoleon and South Claiborne, directly across the street from a Walgreens. His denial of a CVS is very likely false.

  • Brian

    How does a board member for a neighborhood association whose bylaws (the very 1st bylaw at that – 1A) state “The association exist for the preservation and integrity of the neighborhood” vote in the interest of continuing commercial development in the neighborhood? Glad to see at least the new president is willing to take a stance to preserve the neighborhood.