May 132014
 
Arnold Kirschman holds a painting of his plan for the buildings in the 4500 block of Freret Street. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Arnold Kirschman holds a painting of his plan for the buildings in the 4500 block of Freret Street. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The former Frank's Steak House buildlings, photographed in 2012. (UptownMessenger.com file)

The former Frank’s Steak House buildlings, photographed in 2012. (UptownMessenger.com file)

The former Frank’s Steak House — the last, largest remaining building on Freret Street untouched by the commercial renaissance there — has a new potential owner whose family has been prominently associated with New Orleans retail for a century, and a new redevelopment plan that calls for demolishing a major part of the old building.

Arnold Kirschman — whose grandfather founded the Kirschman’s home furnishings business in 1914 — has been exploring a redevelopment project at the old steak house building for about three months, he told members of the Freret Neighbors United group on Tuesday evening. After extensive research with his contractors, Kirschman said his current plan is to preserve and renovate the large white building on the corner of Cadiz that used to be a laundry, but to tear down the remaining structures and replace them with a new building.

The entire project, he said, will have space for commercial tenants on the ground floor, though he has not yet begun talks with any tenants in particular. The two stories upstairs will have apartments, generally echoing the existing development pattern on Freret Street, he said.

Originally, Kirschman said, he was determined to save the entire structure, but eventually decided the brick building that housed the steak house has deteriorated to the point that renovation is no longer financially feasible, he said. Instead, he wants to focus his preservation efforts on the old laundry that anchors the block.

“The building just has so much historic value and character and interest, we felt we had to invest the money and make it secure and make it safe,” Kirschman said, even as he detailed missing roof, floor and wall sections that will have to be replaced. “This building, we used as our starting point, and as our design element to carry through for the rest of the project.”

Kirschman needs the city’s permission to demolish the building, and he said he has a hearing set for June 2. The building itself, however, will not need any zoning changes or variances to be built, Kirschman said, because it will be designed to fit in the current height and density limits already on the street. The parking lot in the back should satisfy the building’s parking needs, he said.

Kirschman brought a painting of the streetscape he envisions from the building that drew nods and approving murmurs from the approximately 40 people at the meeting. He is in the process of hiring an architect to create more detailed plans, he said, but his concept drew approval from those who saw it Tuesday evening.

“Our goal is to renovate,” said Rachel van Voorhees, Kirschman’s wife. “We’re only taking down what is a nightmare.”

Stan Norwood, a barber in the next block whose grandmother worked in the old laundry for decades, said he hopes the neighborhood will support the demolition and redevelopment. Although the old steak house may be a landmark, its 20 years as a vacant eyesore need to come to an end.

“Anything you can do with those will be beautification,” Norwood said to Kirschman. “I don’t think anyone will stand in your way.”

Kellie Grengs of The New Freret business and property owners’ association literally applauded the design proposal.

“It’s better than the 20 years of blight we’ve been burdened with,” Grengs said.

Neighbors questioned Kirschman about his progress purchasing the building from the Barreca family, and he replied that the closing is currently timed shortly after the demolition hearing — though not contingent on it. The neighbors, however, urged him to make the purchase sooner. In 2012, neighbors attended a similar hearing in support of a request to demolish only a few homes behind the main buildings, but the committee denied the demolition because the sale had not been completed, and the deal subsequently fell through, recalled Richard Dmitry of Neighbors United, who attended the 2012 hearing.

Kirschman noted that he actually intends to renovate those two houses, not tear them down for parking. More than likely, he said, he and van Voorhees will move into the renovated houses themeselves, because they want to be close to the buildings.

“We’re truly thrilled with the project,” van Voorhees said.

Once the sale goes through, the developers said, the demolition and construction process is expected to take about 18 months.

Share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Print
  • Ignatius J. Reilly

    Almost every other project in the city has worked to maintain the architectural elegance and history of our city. Why in a neighborhood so wrought with history would the residents and other business owners “applaud” such a cultural travesty? The outstanding progress in New Orleans since Katrina has been a blessing. We have done a great job tempering growth while preserving the character of our streets. The preservation of a single structure should not negate that fact that a row of cheap commercial buildings reminiscent of Houston or Gulfport Outlet Malls will soon line the streets of Ferret. Hopefully the City and HDLC will protect us from our own greed and the glut commercial developers often leave in their wake. (Photo: Houston commercial site)

    • Gio Bonura

      To be fair we must answer this question first. Which is worse, old ugly building or new ugly building?

    • snixy

      what is “elegant” about a termite infested collapsing building? This building is garbage and it was garbage 40 years ago when I bought a house in the neighborhood. It was and is a monstrosity that is just months away from the wind making it a pile of rubble. This building has been a millstone around this neighborhood’s neck for decades and I will toast with champagne anyone that will turn it into a pile of rubble. A vacant weed infested lot would be an improvement!

    • http://www.brottworks.com/ Andy Brott

      Mr. Mrs, or Ms. Reilly,
      I was lucky to have worked with Architect Author Davis in the CBD on projects as his amazing Rivergate was torn down and replaced with a Harrah’s Casino that looks Anywheresville Northbumbble Interloop Houston USA. Talk about a cultural travesty…. Yet AD was (to me as a young Artist) not crushed by the injustice, and we both laughed at how hard the Rivergate was to tear down, and how cool the steel and concrete looked as it was. He had moved onto the Arena and Bronze Sculpture in front of the Port Building. All said, your fake name comments are dead wrong borderline stupid and I give a big thumbs down. for as much as we need preservation to prevent the Loops of Houston, we also need the thinking of Jane Jacobs to strive for a balance that treats each neighborhood individually and helps us grow a middle class.

      For as much as we mock the traffic scum and sprawl, they have the tax base and middle that makes good schools and jobs they stole from Cities like us year ago. Lets get back. Franks steak house was built with fake French1/4 looks and 9.5′ tall ceilings that reek of the cheap Barreca-esc suburbia and fits better next to Lakeside Mall than it does on Freret- (or as you like to call us Ferret st.) Tear it Down, and rebuild a smaller version of the Rivergate, as form follows function and fake is fake….

      Best From 5110,
      Andy Brott

  • http://www.brottworks.com/ Andy Brott

    Thank you Robert Morris for reporting, and a bigger thanks to the Kirschmans-
    Dealing with selfish Barracca’s and NIMBY is no easy task, especially when combined- i.e.- one of them (who now lives close) had the nerve to question any new building design with windows that could see her back yard. Hey Mrs Barreca, it’s your families termite farming ways that made original so structurally unsound that it needs to be torn down. + If you finally sell, you get big $, while buyers loose out on big time on HD Tax credits having to build new. Good lord this is frustrating… .
    Best from 5110 Freret st.
    Andy Brott

  • frustrated

    This is fantastic news. If Kellie is behind it; I’m all for it. She has been an invaluable watchdog for the Freret neighborhood. She’s forceful and attentive to the smallest detail. And I’d love to have Rachel von Voorhees in the neighbor.

  • snixy

    do we have to wait until this building collapses in on itself to demolish it? at what point does a termite infested nailed together garbage get demolished so that we can eliminate this impediment to renewal of a great neighborhood. Are these readers clinging to their fantasy that it was ever rehab worthy? what is so special about this brick monstrosity that it cannot be “upgraded” to a structurally sound functional NEW building. I drive past collapsed buildings in our neighborhood that should have been torn down decades before Katrina and wonder why we are so mentally ill as a city that we cannot take out our garbage.

  • belkissa

    I would LOVE to see a little grocery store like Zara’s in that spot on the corner. Or even a fresh produce-oriented store.

  • chopsley

    The drawing looks reasonable. The taller structures would be on what’s already the “sunny side of the street”, so they would not be casting deeper shadows on Freret Street itself. Maybe it would be nice to retain the balcony (gallery?) on Frank’s, but that’s a minor point not worth harping upon (pun intended). That brickwork on Frank’s appeared to be modern stock that would look more at home in Metairie; no loss in seeing that go away.

    I always wondered how Frank’s steaks compared to Charlie’s, just a few blocks away. Does anyone know?

    One historical point worth mentioning is that Frank’s was reputed to have gambling in the back room in its heyday.

    • http://www.brottworks.com/ Andy Brott

      Mr. Mrs. or Ms. Chopsley,
      Rumors are rumors, but lets examine these numbers from the New Orleans Assessors Website-
      4523 Freret St. Owned by Josheph-Nash Co.-LLC
      Land Valued @ $72,000
      Building Valued $54,000
      for $126,000 Total and
      4357 Freret same owners
      36K for land
      75K for building
      111K total-
      And they demand and won’t sell under 2.5 million (?)
      Disgusting…. and on par with the Archdiocese does with their blighted and abandoned NOT FOR SALE Church and Rectory close by… What’s up with that?
      Best From Freret,
      Andy

      • chopsley

        Are you saying the assessment is undervalued, or the asking price is too high?

        I can’t fault a landowner for putting an unrealistic price on a property they don’t want to sell. (Incidentally, my house is also available for $2.5 million).

        Current real estate prices in New Orleans have me thinking nostalgically, mostly about Danish tulips in the 1600s.

        It’s “Mr. Chopsley” to you and everyone except the good Doctor.

        • http://www.brottworks.com/ Andy Brott

          Mr. Chopsley,
          Yes, but these are Barraccas were talking about- who payed little to no property taxes for years on MANY properties- and are A1 prime examples of bad NOLA.
          As seen here- http://www.wwltv.com/news/Neighborhood-leaders-say-Freret-St-property-owners-still-a-drag-to-recovery-114845689.html
          That was 2011- and now they pay something, but still so under assessed there is no incentive and no fines…
          So this Kirshman’s deal may fail like their others when they need unicorns shooting lasers, bags of clear rubies, and demo permits that say Barracca LLC (those will never pass) to sell.
          When it does, please ask the fine Doctor to make a smootchie beam that turns greed into good, or truth serum for Erroll Williams and his staff. Maybe that would work…
          BFF,
          Andy

  • Tim9lives

    Yea…This sounds like a fantastic project. I’m so happy Kirshman is planning to save the historical corner building which housed the old Lee’s Laundry and just as happy to see the other brick structure go.

    There is absolutely nothing historical about the building which housed the Steakhouse…..NOTHING !!!