An appearance by Saints quarterback Drew Brees before the New Orleans City Council helped his proposed Jimmy John’s sandwich shop over the goal line Thursday afternoon, and the redevelopment of the LaSalle School that has bitterly divided one Uptown neighborhood also won approval without so much as a comment in opposition.
Jimmy John’s | The flock of news cameras in the City Council chambers on Thursday afternoon drew an opening quip from Brees, who quipped that they must all be big fans of Jimmy John’s. Even if they weren’t, the City Council was, showering Brees with praise as they approved his restaurant with a 7-0 vote.
Brees’ appearance Thursday was necessitated by the fact that the City Planning Commission had previously split over the project with a 4-2 vote known technically as “no legal majority” because it lacked five votes in favor. Neighborhood residents oppose the project in part because they believe too much food-and-drink development has already taken place on Maple Street, and in part because Jimmy John’s is deemed a fast-food restaurant.
Project attorney Basile Uddo suggested that “neighborhood sandwich shop” is a better description of the restaurant, since nothing is fried on site, but that explanation did not sit well with residents of the street.
“Maple Street’s under seige,” said resident Kirk Groome. He added, “This is a fast food outlet. This is like Quizno’s. This is like Subway. This is another fast food outlet.”Brees, however, cited his own residency near the restaurant site and said he would not do anything he believed would be to the detriment of Maple Street.
“What’s more important to me is that we become a very respectful community partner,” Brees said.
Councilwoman Susan Guidry, whose district includes Maple Street, said the owner of the building has signed an agreement limiting the fast-food conditional use to the Jimmy John’s restaurant, so that it won’t morph into a different, more objectionable fast-food place. The renovation of the house requires only minor changes, she said, and issues such as alcohol sales won’t be a problem, because the chain prohibits them.
“It’s a restaurant chain, so we know exactly what they’re going to produce,” Guidry said.
Councilwoman Stacy Head suggested that the underlying reason why the Maple residents oppose so many developments is because the city has failed to enforce its own laws in past years, allowing a preponderance of disruptive college-oriented bars to open. She praised Guidry’s work cracking down on provisos around those businesses, and promised to join her in the effort from her new at-large seat.
“I see 10 code violations just walking down the street,” Head said.
With that, the council voted. As Brees left the chamber, he stopped to shake hands with Martin and Groome.
LaSalle School | More surprising than the council’s acquiescence to the Jimmy John’s was a total lack of opposition to the LaSalle School redevelopment. The proposal has created fierce disagreements among supporters and opponents who live around the project, and the City Planning Commission’s first meeting about included a tightly orchestrated presentation from the opposing neighbors.
The only one present to speak on the project Thursday was attorney Justin Schmidt, and he was never even called to the microphone. Guidry deemed the project “very exciting,” praised developer Jim MacPhaille and the neighbors for robust input on the matter, and recommended approval, which it won unanimously. She noted that the Upper Hurstville Residents Association had made an 11th-hour request for a committee to oversee the project, but instead included a requirement that the project get HDLC approval.
To read our live coverage of the meeting, see the module below.