City Council approves new restaurant at controversial Broadmoor corner

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The old Hubert building at 4401 South Broad Street. (via Google maps)

The old Hubert building at 4401 South Broad Street. (via Google maps)

Lindsey McLellan, a chef at Lola's restaurant who plans a new restaurant in Broadmoor called El Pavo Real, speaks to the New Orleans City council on Thursday, Dec. 11. (via nolacitycouncil.com)

Lindsey McLellan, a chef at Lola’s restaurant who plans a new restaurant in Broadmoor called El Pavo Real, speaks to the New Orleans City council on Thursday, Dec. 11. (via nolacitycouncil.com)

Citing the landlord’s extensive negotiations with neighbors, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell cleared the way last week for a new restaurant in a Broadmoor building with a controversial history.

El Pavo Real at 4401 South Broad Street will serve traditional Mexican fare in “a family centered, comfortable establishment with healthy, affordable, scratch made food,” chef Lindsey McLellan of Lola’s restaurant has previously said. The building — the former Hubert Drug Store dating back to 1917 — is located across from the Keller library and the Broadmoor playspot, and next to the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, and McLellan said its location and past history of commercial use made it seem perfect in spite of its current residential zoning.

McLellan, a nearby resident, said she will also be partnering with Project NOLA to install two cameras pointed at the busy intersection and the playground, to help protect the children there and in the broader educational corridor of the church, library and Wilson school.

“It’s very important to me that quality of life be maintained right there in what is in a very central intersection,” McLellan said. “This piece of property sat vacant for years and years, and it’s really been more of a negative space than anything else.”

Over the years, the Hubert Drug Store gave way to a Time Saver convenience store, and after that business closed in the 1990s, the property lost its commercial zoning. Neighbors fought four previous attempts by property owner Allen Borne to restore the commercial zoning for various uses, but he told the City Council last Thursday that his most recent round of negotiations with neighbors went to 10 p.m. on a recent night.

They have now come to terms, Borne said, and a good-neighbor agreement is in the drafting stage.

“It’s the desire of myself and Ms. McLellan to create a harmonious balance between the commercial operation located in the subject property and residential life in the Broadmoor community, to establish a safe, clean and peaceful operation that enhances the neighborhood,” Borne to the City Council.

The Rev. Gregory Manning of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church next door said he is negotiation with the business for some use of the church’s parking space, and that the congregation supports the project. He praised the hours spent on the neighborhood agreement, and said El Pavo Real seems to be the business they have been holding out for.

“We have been waiting for a good business to be represented to go into this property, waiting for a while,” Manning said. “Now that person has come, so the question for us now is, ‘If not now at this time, then when?'”

Opposition to the project has been stronger in the past, but many of the older residents who opposed the property’s return to commercial use have now moved or passed away, said Liz Rareshide, the lone neighbor who spoke against the rezoning on Thursday.

“The same reasons for opposition in the past still exist, and I know you’ve heard them before, but I can’t not list them again for your consideration,” Rareshide said. “There are other vacant commercial buildings that could be a restaurant, so we’re not stifling economic opportunity.”

If Borne would have charged a reasonable rent, the building could have had residential use for all these years instead, Rareshide said.

“Spot zoning creates an exception that financially benefits the owner to the detriment of neighboring property owners,” Rareshide said. She concluded, “Are you going to reward someone who has not been a good neighbor simply for his persistence?”

The request had split the City Planning Commission, whose members praised the project but said they also understood neighbors’ concerns. At the City Council meeting, however, Cantrell said she felt the agreement being drafted would address the most important issues — the building will be repaired, the commercial zoning will be limited and a tenant is in place.

The project meets the general redevelopment goals of Broadmoor, which she long represented as a neighborhood leader before her election to City Council, Cantrell said.

“The owner has met all of those requirements as put forth by the community,” Cantrell said. “With that, I feel very confident with approving this change.”

The request passed with a 5-0 vote.

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