The group of local investors who bought the former Times-Picayune building last year are requesting mixed-use zoning from the New Orleans City Council — suggesting yet another major redevelopment in the works along the Pontchartrain Expressway.
The 9-acre property at 3800 Howard Avenue housed The Times-Picayune from the late 1960s until printing moved out of state in 2016. It was sold in September to a development group called 3800 Howard Investors LLC, which included developer Joe Jaeger, Barry Kern of Mardi Gras World, and Arnold Kirschman who recently redeveloped the 4500 block of Freret Street, according to a report in the New Orleans Advocate at the time.
The group does not specify its intentions for the property in its application, but says that mixed-use zoning will help pave the way for the future project.
“This site is currently zoned BIP Business Industrial Park District, though it is unlikely that offices or a business will be the new use here,” according to a letter submitted with the application. “The owner has therefore proposed changing the property’s zoning to MU-2 High Intensity Mixed-Use District, which would allow for the site’s full redevelopment.”
Construction on the unspecified project would begin this spring and last six to nine months, the letter notes.
City planners who evaluated the request noted that they, too, are in the dark about the nature of the project, but the exclusion of businesses or offices leads them to assume “that residential development would likely be a major component of any future redevelopment of the site.”
The proposal may face an uphill battle, however, as the city planning staff is recommending against it for a variety of reasons:
- The mixed-use zoning is “too intense for this physically isolated site, given the limited surrounding infrastructure, and the fact that the site is not easily accessible for vehicles or pedestrians,” the city planning staffers wrote.
- It is “is incompatible with the historic land use of the site and the current land use of adjacent properties.” The mixed-use zoning would allow the project to be seven stories or 85 feet tall, for example.
- The project “would result in a loss of industrial land and would not protect adjacent industrial districts from the encroachment of incompatible uses.”
- The request contradicts the city’s master plan, while other paths to redevelopment may be more appropriate.
The request is scheduled to be heard Tuesday, Jan. 10, before the City Planning Commission prior to a final decision by the City Council.
The proposal is one of several pending under the path of the Pontchartrain Expressway along the edge of the Central Business District. Jaeger is involved in the proposed expansion of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the redevelopment of the Market Street power plant, according to The Advocate’s September report, and Kern is planning an indoor trampoline facility nearby on Earhart Boulevard.