Kingsley House plans preschool, adult daycare on vacant OPSB lot

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A first draft of site plans for the Kingsley House expansion presented at Monday's meeting. (A parking lot shown on Richard is expected to be moved, officials said.)

A first draft of site plans for the Kingsley House expansion presented at Monday’s meeting. (A parking lot shown on Richard is expected to be moved, officials said.)

Kingsley House, which has been providing family services and community programs for more than a century, plans to expand across the street from its Lower Garden District main campus with a new preschool and adult daycare on a long-vacant plot of land, officials told neighbors Monday evening.

The new facility will sit on the lot bounded by Orange, Richard, Annunciation streets and a closed section of Constance. The early childhood education center along Richard Street will serve about 100 children, and the adult daycare will serve roughly as many adults during business hours, said Kingsley House CEO Keith Liederman to the Coliseum Square Association at their monthly meeting Monday.

The neighborhood is strongly supportive of Kingsley House and the work it does in the community, and the design proposed by Trapolin-Peer architects is a good match with the existing buildings, said association president Jim McAlister. The board’s only request is that emergency vehicles — even if not the general public — have access to what is now the closed section of Constance Street that will become a sort of private drive, McAlister said, recalling a major fire at a Magazine Street shop that firefighters fought from the vacant lot behind it.

An aerial view of the lot (via Google maps)

An aerial view of the lot (via Google maps)

The unusual history of the 4.2-acre lot and the closed section of Constance begins in 1969, when the city of New Orleans seized the two blocks with about 30 houses through eminent domain, intended as a new middle school, Liederman said. The section of Constance was closed, and the houses were all demolished, but stagnating public-school enrollment prevented the school from being built and it has remained vacant since then, Liederman said.

The audience at the association divided sharply over what should be done with that former section of Constance. One man said that when he lived on Constance Street, that chained-off portion of street always frustrated him. Others, however, said that the break in the street grid serves to slow traffic in the residential area, a concern that Liederman said he shared given that the people walking around the new facility will be very young, very old or have other special needs.

“There are probably advantages either way,” said architect Peter Trapolin. “I can see both sides.”

Kingsley House already has a 99-year lease on the property from the Orleans Parish School Board, and hopes to close on its purchase soon, Liederman said. City officials are reviewing the site plan, Trapolin said, and have asked that a strip of parking along Richard be moved closer to Annunciation, so that the preschool building can front directly on Richard.

The section of the lot between Constance and Magazine is not included in the current plans, and will remain vacant, Liederman said. A pre-Katrina plan called for a job-training center there, but the funding for that project has not been secured, Liederman said.

The same property was under consideration in 2011 as the temporary site for Audubon Charter School, but state officials quashed that plan after high levels of lead were found in the soil. Kingsley House officials did not describe any lead remediation plans at Monday’s meeting and could not be reached afterward.

[Update: Kingsley House plans a lead remediation at the site that is expected to cost $1 million, Liederman said in an email sent Tuesday afternoon.]

In a separate project, developers are moving forward with the construction of eight townhouses on the site of the former church that burned down in the 2100 block of Prytania, said contractor Chris Kornman of Entablature. They hope to begin construction in November or December and have new residents moving in in September of next year, he said.

To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.

9 thoughts on “Kingsley House plans preschool, adult daycare on vacant OPSB lot

  1. I attended the meeting last night and just wanted to make a couple of specific clarifications regarding the questions raised by a few people in the audience about the section of the now private property that was ONCE Constance Street. I’m taking time to do this because of recent situations in other neighborhoods where PUBLIC streets were improperly closed by neighborhoods and groups and others. This is not even remotely related to those situations. Last night there was some slightly heated debate (of which I was part) when there really needed to be none.

    Firstly, the board did not request that the section of the lot remain open to emergency vehicles and the like. The board never discussed this officially and no vote was ever taken regarding this. I believe this comment was a personal comment from a board member and needs to be understood as not being an official position from the CSA.

    Second, there seems to be a missunderstanding by some that this is a public street passing through this private parcel. It is not. It was presented and clearly explained last night that the old section of Constance that was closed some 40 years ago ceased to be a public street at that point. It was effectively absorbed and purchased and now sold again. It is now a completely private parcel and has been recognized in title as such . This week Kingsley House will own it outright. The area that once was a section of Constance is now (and has been for 40 years) no different than any other part of the parcel and in no way is it a public thoroughfare. Therefore the public has no right whatsoever to ask a private owner(s) to cut a public street through their personal property just because at one time in history one existed there. I suppose that anyone can ASK anything of a private owner but that was not the the tone of some of the questions. Again this was after the property ownership issue was addressed.

    Recent history: This is exactly the same situation that happened when The Muses was built on Carondelet directly across Polymnia thereby cutting it off forever. The Albertson’s had purchased the street as well as its surrounding blocks when they mercilessly leveled all the houses there and then went belly up.

    My personal feeling is that we should learn to fight harder when giant swaths of neighborhoods are threatened to be clearcut for un-financed plans. Neither of these huge vacant parcels would have existed if demolition of neighborhoods (or even single houses) was held until all financing and all permits were in place. Hopefully this can be avoided in the future.

    • Yeah? Well only in New Orleans does THAT look like a street. Funny, to me it looks like an anti terrorist barrier to prevent car bombing the base. I guess your line of reasoning is if you can see something it must be used for what YOU think it looks like huh? I can go around town and take some other pictures for you that will probably really surprise you as well. Just for starters six flags, the power plant, visible streetcar tracks, dozens of churches, a streetcar barn, once public stables, closed school buildings that have been repurposed, cotton warehouses, banks, courthouses, libraries, and on and on and on. Shockingly, you will find that they have all been sold to private entities. No matter how much they look like their built-for purposes you can’t use them for those things anymore. See they have been SOLD by their original owners, whether they be city, state, church or simply private entity . That means they are not open to the public no matter what they look like or how much you wish and wish they were. Incidentally diddy, was that you I saw waiting in the St. Alphonsus confessional all day Sunday and then shopping at the Robert’s on Constance?

  2. The city should reacquire the street and rebuild the street grid. Urban planners now preach that a consistent, active street grid leads to a reduction in crime, because of better activity and sight lines. Moreover, more traffic on Constance means less on others. It spreads the congestion. Otherwise, I’m totally for the project!

  3. And also Banks, it’s not private property, it’s owned be the school board and leased to Kingsley house. Get your facts straight.

    • Profjim, I’ll address you two comments, the latter one first. I in fact have my fact abundantly straight. I am afraid that it is you who needs an factual education on real estate and what a city owned piece of real estate means. I would refer you to my first comment as I specifically mentioned which you obviously missed , the school board is IN CONTRACT for the SALE to Kingsley house to close in the next few days. They also, as you mentioned, gave a 99 year lease for the ENTIRE property (which includes what was once a street) to Kingsley prior to this. The city removed the street themselves in use and title years ago when they “acquired” the land through eminent domain. By acquiring the land it is for all practical purposes a privately owned parcel. It is now and apparently has been for 40 YEARS a single contiguous piece of property. It is in contract to close as such. The die was cast 4 decades ago. If people had such a problem with this then they had 40+ years to raise an objection. But they didn’t did they. Also ,just because a city agency owns a piece of property does not mean that it is “public” property, it (the city) is essentially a business and it owns property outright. That’s why when they sell property (which they do all the time) they don’t have to ask permission from somebody such as yourself or me.
      Secondly- going to your first post, even though the question at hand is moot. I want to address the trotting out of the now invariable “urban planner argument”. It’s used so often now that’s its really become a cliche. Simply quoting current best practices without relating them and without explanation and reason is about as helpful as quoting bible verses wrote. Every situation needs to be looked at a a SEPARATE issue and looked at on its own merits. Urban planners have their helpful uses and place but they are also infamous for making colossal mistakes that affect neighborhoods permanently. Funny that they almost never live in the neighborhood they are “planning”. Here’s a few zinger ideas –Urban planners essentially built all of the city housing projects that failed miserably and are almost all torn down now, they built or had a heavy hand in the on-ramp which nearly destroyed the LGD and was finally removed by folks fighting for their neighborhood, they nearly put the 10 in front of the French Quarter only to put it behind it thereby cutting off a giant section of the city and nearly destroying the Treme (and now its demolition is being considered). To quote you “Urban planners now preach”… I agree with you there.
      So now to look at this specifically, lower Constance street now enjoys some of the quietest streets in the LGD and some of the lowest crime (now). People are actually choosing to walk up Constance instead of Magazine because its pleasant, imagine that. Homeowners are moving in and are taking charge of its beautification and are pouring THEIR money in. There is even a block planting planned that is homeowner funded. It still has a long way to go because it had fallen so far but I don’t know anybody who thinks they need help from an urban planner on Constance.
      The fact is HOMEOWNERSHIP has turned the tide of crime and blight on lower Constance not urban planners. Homeowners demand safety and fight for a better neighborhood. Most of the homeowners I know on lower Constance site its LACK of busy traffic as one of the things they love most about those blocks and ALL of the NEW owners I know specifically cite the quietness of the street as a major reason that they bought a house on Constance to restore.
      I bought an abandoned house and live on lower Constance, I regularly bring potential buyers down here (I’m not an agent) and site the quite street as a major asset. 6 families have agreed so far in about 2 years and have bought (abandoned) homes down here due to these “tours”. These owners had choices and could have bought most anywhere in town but they chose here. These are all owner occupied now not investment rentals or flips.
      In this specific case, pride of ownership is what lowered crime , not connecting one more street that in fact would just go one more block before “T” ending JUST AS IT DOES NOW. Incidentally, if you want to “spread congestion” I suggest the Magazine street 2 way already on the table. Talk about a hot button!

  4. Second Line Stages has already taken 1 block of Chippewa located about 1 block from this site away from the neighborhood with no notice to nearby residents. That lost block significantly disrupts the grid pattern due to all the one way streets. And they haven’t been good neighbors regarding the affected traffic. I’m for this development but the neighborhood should get the block of Chippewa back to facilitate traffic once this new facility is built because Second Line stages is not helping the situation.

  5. Robert, the article part needs to amend 2100 block of Josephine to either 2100 Prytania (as is in transcript) or 1500 Josephine.

    Does anyone know the boundaries of the CSA? It seems like a huge area compared to other neighborhood associations.

    • Joe – thanks for the catch and sorry for the error. It’s corrected.

      I also added a brief update from Kingsley House about the lead from an email I received the day after the meeting.

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