The Third Rose of Sharon Baptist Church at 2132 Third Street needed a conditional use to build the community center. It had been a two-family home for much of the 20th Century, but was used as a community center before Katrina, and the lot has been vacant since the building was demolished in 2007.
“The center will provide after-school programming, meals, and access to computers and internet for residents of the area,” the City Planning report states.
The city planning staff had initially recommended against the land-use change, saying the center wouldn’t bring any more impact on the neighborhood than the church already does, but the vacant 3,800-square foot lot itself was smaller than normally required for a free-standing community center. Further, the church is only providing a single off-street parking space, less than the seven required for a building of its size.
Church architect Emily Castro told the commission at their July 25 meeting that she had met individually with a neighbor who was initially opposed to the center, and said she believes their discussions assuaged his concerns. The church would actually be allowed to build a community center there if the two lots were combined, but FEMA requires them to remain separate properties. Further, the community center will primarily be used by church members who live in the neighborhood, so the additional parking will not be necessary, Castro explained to the commission.
After hearing from Castro, the City Planning Commission overruled the staff, recommending in favor of the church in July based on its neighborhood outreach. The commission attached a set of standard conditions to the approval, such as submitting a detailed landscaping plan and getting separate permission for the city for any modifications to the sidewalk or curbs.
“The church has a history of working with the community,” said Commissioner Eugene Green. “I think some of the concerns expressed by staff can be overcome.”
At the Aug. 24 meeting of the City Council, Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell proposed allowing the community center, in accordance with the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
“They were at a standstill for a very long time waiting for FEMA approval,” Cantrell said Thursday. “That has been granted, and we are moving forward.”
The motion passed the City Council unanimously.