The City Council backed a plan to approve a controversial new building on Magazine Street in the Irish Channel while requiring further design changes to the three-story mixed-use building.
The Historic District Landmarks Commission had gave the project its conceptual approval in April. The Garden District Association then filed an appeal asking the City Council to overturn the HDLC’s decision.
In the appeal, Garden District Association President Frank Tessier quotes liberally from the HDLC’s guidelines for new construction, pointing out requirements — such as aligning balconies, roof ridges and other elements with adjacent buildings — that he states were not followed by the commission when it approved the design for 2230 Magazine.
The appeal states the building is too large for the site, despite guidelines that require compatibility in size and massing. It also calls elements of the facade, such as the openings and materials, inconsistent with the character of the surrounding buildings.
The building has seven apartments on the second and third floors and two commercial spaces on the first. It will be constructed on an empty lot between two one-story buildings within a block largely made up of two-story buildings.
After the appeal to City Council was filed, District B Councilmember Lesli Harris set up a meeting with the development team, District B staff members and the neighborhood associations. The group developed the list of changes to the design that the council ultimately approved.
“I just want to be clear that we did work very diligently with them [the neighborhood associations] and addressed several items that were able to be modified in order to have a design that is fitting for the neighborhood.” said developer Sam Mickal Solomon of Bancroft Property Investments.
The modifications, like those from the HDLC’s Architectural Review Committee, are aimed toward softening the building’s massing and making it more compatible with its surroundings.
The architect agreed to adjustments that include breaking up openings on the second floor, changing siding to stucco, making the garage opening opaque, using a traditional brick color and curving the metal railings.
The changes must be approved by the HDLC staff, which had recommended the council reject the appeal and uphold the commission’s decision. “A new three-story building at this location is consistent with the pattern of development of the neighborhood and is appropriate to the context,” HDLC Deputy Director Eleanor Burke told the council.
The council unanimously “granted in part and denied in part” the appeal. That approach received the support of the Garden District Association.
An earlier motion, filed by Harris on May 5, would have denied the appeal and upheld the HDLC’s approval.
“I feel like we’ve got a compromise that’s not perfect, but no compromise is perfect,” said Shelley Landrieu, executive director of the Garden District Association.
The building is on the river side Magazine Street, which puts it in the Irish Channel rather than the Garden District. The Irish Channel Neighborhood Association’s board, however, has not taken a stand on the appeal.
The Irish Channel residents speaking at the City Council meeting were skeptical that the revisions would assuage their concerns. “The little changes in facades and colors are not really going to make that building compatible,” said Laurel Street homeowner Adolph Lopez.
The Irish Channel is a full-control local historic district, where the HDLC must approve, in addition to demolitions, all new construction and exterior work to any building visible from the right of way.
Some residents, including a few who said they worked to achieve the HDLC designation for their neighborhood 20 years ago, expressed disappointment over the commission’s recent oversight of their neighborhood.
“The historic character of the Irish Channel district is slowly but relentlessly being eroded by too much new construction that is not faithful to the appearance and character of the adjacent buildings and surrounding blocks,” said Seventh Street homeowner Harvey Stern at the hearing.
Joel Moak, a 42-year resident of the Channel, added: “The HDLC no longer considers the historic nature of the Irish Channel.”
Project architect Lindsay Butler, while urging the council to oppose the appeal, said she has agreed to adjust her design. “We’re definitely open to these changes to the building,” Butler said, “to soften it a little bit, to make something that’s a bit more palatable to them [the neighborhood groups].”
Katherine Hart is the managing editor of NOLA Messenger. She can be reached at email@example.com.