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.