Martin Wine Cellar is back on track to rebuild next year its at its original New Orleans location, the massive lot on Baronne Street that has been empty for years, the store’s owner told the surrounding neighborhood association Tuesday evening.
Opened in 1946, the upscale deli and grocery flooded after the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina and was then looted, and the family subsequently reopened in the suburbs and on Magazine Street. The family began working on plans to rebuild the original Baronne Street location in 2008 or 2009, and in 2010 won city approval to begin construction, cheering neighbors.
With little more than a foundation laid, however, construction abruptly stopped. The reason for that, Cedric Martin told the Delachaise Neighborhood Association on Tuesday, is because of unexpected and costly demands from Entergy that he bury all the power lines around the site.
“I couldn’t afford to do what they were asking,” Martin said.
With work at standstill, Martin said he spent 2011 trying to find a solution with Entergy officials, and also began considering scaling the design of the building down from its two-story plans. In July of 2012, he began applying for a major loan that would help him get the project back on track, he said. Six weeks ago, he received confirmation that the loan had been approved, and he had an initial meeting with his architect this week.
The single-story building will be slightly redesigned from the plans neighbors saw in 2010, Martin said. The main exterior change will be that the ceiling drops about two feet, and some of the windows will be reconfigured. Most of the changes will be to the interior layout, to make room for the deli equipment, Martin said.
With the process of rebuilding just now restarting, Martin said he is unsure how much of the city approval he had already won he will have to do over again. He hopes to begin construction in January, and be complete in September of 2014.
“You’re going to see a Martin Wine Cellar there, hopefully in September of 2014,” Martin said, receiving his second of three rounds of applause from the audience that evening. “I’m glad. I’m tired of driving to Metairie for the past eight years. … It’s been too long. Eight years is really a long time.”
More than 30 people attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Delachaise Neighborhood Association, and their questions largely revolved around how they could help the wine cellar reopen. Dodd Denton, the association president, said after the meeting that the fenced-off site of the old store has been the top concern of neighbors for years, and they were heartened by the new information about the loan and the redesign that Martin shared Tuesday.
“We strongly support him coming back. We’re completely behind him,” Denton said. “This is conversation we hadn’t heard.”
Many of the neighbors personally congratulated Martin after the meeting, and he complimented the association on the work they’ve done to improve the neighborhood. He said he is glad to be moving again, even if it is one step at a time.
“It’s going to come together,” Martin said. “I wish I was back already.”