The owner of a gas station on South Claiborne Avenue has received initial approval to tear down the convenience store and cluster of shops attached to it and rebuild the entire business.
The Super Discount Gas at the corner of Washington Avenue was actually approved for demolition back in December, but needs permission from the City Council to rebuild with a larger footprint, city documents show. The new building will have two retail spaces — one of which will have a small kitchen for restaurant operations — and an auto-repair garage, the documents state.
“Every 25 years, oil and gas stations have to be redone in order to revitalize the area,” owner Darleen Jacobs-Levy told the City Planning Commission in its April 28 meeting. “This is a million-dollar restoration. … I think if you look at my other developments throughout the city, I think that I bring hope to the city of New Orleans.”
The plan drew no opposition from the public, and the primary issue debated between the gas station owner and the City Planning Commission was the lighting at the gas station. The commission staff had recommended that the station be required to have all its lighting recessed under the canopy, but that would cost more than $10,000, the station owners protested.
The staff said that any lighting that is not being changed can remain as grandfathered in — the proviso only applies to new lighting — but that they would prefer it all be changed to recessed lighting.
“The lighting that exists now is really quite glaring, if you’re driving by or walking by,” said Arlen Brunson of the City Planning Commission. “This is something you can see very evidently when you compare gas station canopies that have recessed lighting versus not-recessed lighting, it makes a world of difference.”
Levy replied that bright lights are a necessity on South Claiborne Avenue because of the threat of crime at night. They also have surveillance cameras all over the property, she said.
“As you know, gas stations are constantly being robbed,” Levy said. “Approximately 12 years ago, we had a murder there of one of our employees, and we need to light it up as much as we can.”
Brunson said that recessed lighting will still provide strong light on the station itself, but won’t bleed onto neighboring properties.
Ultimately, the planning commission sided with its staff on the lighting and 18 other issues in the application (except allowing the sign to maintain its current height), with Commission Chair Kelly Brown reasoning that the specific standards of the Inner City Urban Corridor on South Claiborne are intended to apply to all businesses. The commission voted 7-0 in favor of the project, sending it to City Council for final approval.