The proposal by Safeguard Self Storage to expand into a new three-story building next door to its current location on Erato Street in the Lower Garden District received easy approval from the City Planning Commission this week, despite staff concerns about the amount of parking that will be provided.
Safeguard is proposing to build a three-story, 63,000 square foot warehouse that will hold 509 mini-storage units at 931 Erato Street, replacing the existing single-story warehouse used as an office for a private security company. The new building will be next to Safeguard’s five story facility at 919 Erato Street.
The project needs both a conditional use from the City Council to create more mini-storage units as well as a parking variance, because the plans provide only 12 spaces when city rules require 20 for a building of that size. City planners had recommended approving the conditional use to allow the mini-storage units, calling it a “net positive over existing conditions,” but not the parking variance.
Jim Goonan, owner of the existing five-story Safeguard Self Storage building that will remain next door on the block, said that their own traffic counts show that only 2.5 cars park at the site per hour even at the busiest times of the year. They could conceivably redesign the building to add more parking, he said, but it would be at the cost of either the green space or the shopfront that neighbors liked, or the warehouse space that forms the core of the business.
“Taking away that net square footage for parking we’re never going to utilize, we’re really trying not to do it. Plus, the parking on the street that’s not there now or being utilized by the previous tenant will be there for the public. We won’t have any use for it,” Goonan said at Tuesday’s meeting of the City Planning Commission. “We thought the request for the variance would be reasonable given our operating history.”
No one from the public spoke against the project, and the Lower Garden Distict Association had sent in a letter of support following Safeguard’s recent presentation to them. City Planning Commissioner Walter Isaacson said the city should allow the facility as it is planned, rather than forcing it to provide more parking than necessary.
“In this day and age, we don’t want to ‘over parking lot’ the city,” Isaacson said.
With that, the commission voted unanimously to recommend the City Council grant approval of the request with 12 parking spaces instead of 20.
Last month, the city planning commission voted to recommend denial of a new mini-storage project in the 2600 block of Tchoupitoulas, amid neighborhood opposition.