By Emily Carmichael, Uptown Messenger
Iconic baguette producer Leidenheimer Baking Co. wants to expand its factory, but some of its Central City neighbors are pushing back.
Leidenheimer, one of the city’s premier providers of po-boy loaves, wants to add 23,436 square feet to its factory at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Simon Bolivar Avenue, doubling its size. The renovations are designed to modernize its space and increase its production capacity.
Public feedback in response to these plans has revealed neighborhood complaints of disruptive after-hours deliveries, noise pollution, air pollution, litter, emission of black soot that stains neighboring buildings, and traffic and parking difficulties.
According to the opposition letters submitted by residents and local businesses as well as multiple comment cards from public meetings, residents are concerned the renovations will increase the already bothersome noise pollution, trash production and soot production.
Many mentioned frequent sleep disturbances early in the morning caused by the factory’s delivery schedule and its operation of machinery.
At a hearing before the City Planning Commission, neighbors told stories of delivery trucks endangering children and causing vibrations severe enough to topple curio cabinets. “I’ve yet to see them be a good neighbor,” said Sean Kline, who lives near Leidenheimer on Liberty Street.
Residents also took issue with Leidenheimer’s request to waive the parking requirement for 23 additional spaces. Neighbors said these spaces helped protect against fires and that their absence will result in employees parking on residential streets and increasing traffic.
Multiple residents had reservations over how the renovations will change the neighborhood’s aesthetics. The original plans made no gesture toward windows or architectural design in the building’s facade, and green space was largely eliminated.
The bakery’s neighbors also made significant mention about the renovation’s potential to undesirably impact storm water management and property values.
Two households, one long-time resident and one family who moved to the area in 2017, called for Leidenheimer to relocate to an area designated for industrial use.
On the other hand, one letter of support of was submitted by Koerner Law Firm, whose office is not located near the factory. At one public meeting, some residents expressed support for the expansion, viewing Leidenheimer as an institution that had invested in the neighborhood.
Leidenheimer, which has operated out of the space since 1904, revised its plans in response to the complaints.
The project architects, Woodward Design+Build, plans to enclose the four silos on the site and said trees would be planted around the factory’s sidewalk. The firm also obtained a letter from Leidenheimer’s flour supplier confirming it would end after-hours delivery.
Leidenheimer officials said the company will not hire new employees, so there would be no additional cars that necessitated more parking spaces. Leidenheimer President Sandy Whann, the great-grandson of bakery founder George Leindenheimer, said he did not know how many of the company’s 80 employees, who work in shifts around the clock, drive to work.
Overall, Woodward claimed there will be no increase in traffic, street litter, or waste production. Residents, baffled by how doubling the size of factory would not increase or amplify these issues, still want more assurance.
On Sept. 24, the City Planning Commission required that Leidenheimer continue to modify their plans in response to neighborhood complaints.
The commission agreed with residents that Leidenheimer move its loading dock for deliveries to Martin Luther King Boulevard, which is better suited for heavy traffic. A letter released by The Ensol Group, a bakery consulting firm, said this move would be logistically impossible given the layout of the factory.
“We must build this around the new equipment,” Whann said, “and there’s very little flexibility in its design.”
In the latest iteration of its plans, Leidenheimer suggested a new route for trucks, having them enter on Terpsichore and exit on Simon Bolivar. Without change to the actual building’s structure, residents remained skeptical that the bakery would adhere to this plan in daily operation.
The commission also directed Leidenheimer to pay more attention to the design aspects of their renovation, making the area more walkable and visually pleasing.
The commission voted to approve the expansion plans, but added provisos limiting 18-wheelers to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; limiting its delivery vans to the Simon Bolivar courtyard; and giving an employee responsibility for correctly routing the trucks.
The proposal next goes before the City Council for the final vote, giving neighbors the opportunity for another hearing.
Reporter Emily Carmichael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.