City is proposing zoning changes for Uptown commercial corridors

The city is proposing zoning changes for a few Uptown commercial corridors that would allow more housing in these areas. The City Planning Commission discussed these and other potential amendments to the city Master Plan last week at a public meeting held at the International School of Louisiana. The meeting was for Planning District 2, which includes  Central City, the Lower Garden District, St. Thomas, the Irish Channel, the Garden District, Milan, Touro-Bouligny, East Riverside and the Hoffman Triangle.  A few dozen residents showed up for the opportunity to see the proposed amendments in their district and provide feedback. The Master Plan, a policy and planning document, is subject to regular revision.

Neutral Ground Coffee House owners prepare for a potential ‘exile’

Caroline Williams, known by most as Phant, broke down in tears at the front door of Neutral Ground Coffeehouse. Someone waiting at the door mistook the Neutral Ground co-owner for a Realtor looking to sell the building where the coffee shop lives. That’s how Williams and James Naylor learned their coffeehouse could lose its longtime home. They don’t know when they will have to go, Williams said, but they’ve already begun preparing for Neutral Ground to be in “exile” if the building sells. Neutral Ground Coffee House is a “community space, part gallery, half stage,” often referred to as a safe third place for patrons.

City nixes the Columns’ front yard seating

The Columns’ graceful front porch, framed by the columns that give the hotel its name, has long been popular spot for celebrations, date nights or just sipping a cocktail on a balmy evening as the St. Charles Avenue streetcar rumbles by. 
It’s so popular that the current owners expanded the outdoor seating into the front yard. As part of a 2020 renovation after the hotel, bar and restaurant changed hands, they installed pavers to create new seating. 
In Uptown Messenger’s December 2020 story on the renovation, reporter Sue Strachan wrote: “One of the changes people see right away is the entrance: In the past, guests would enter via a central walkway flanked by greenery. The new entrance has moved to the side with the greenery and walkway replaced with a brick patio. This allowed a more controlled flow into the building, and more outdoor seating.

City seeks public input on zoning changes at Master Plan meeting

The city is asking for public input on zoning changes in the planning district that includes Central City, Lower Garden District, St. Thomas, Irish Channel, Garden District, Milan, Touro-Bouligny, East Riverside and Hoffman Triangle. The New Orleans Master Plan and Future Land Use Map are the primary policy and planning documents for land use and development in the city. They set up guardrails for the types of zoning districts that may be applied in your area. In 2008, voters approved an amendment to the City Charter requiring land use actions to be consistent with the Master Plan’s Future Land Use Map.

Fire sheds light on student housing development in University area

The two-alarm fire that broke out Thanksgiving morning was not especially disruptive to the holiday meal preparations at neighboring homes in the 600 block of Audubon Street. The fire displaced the college students living in 624 Audubon right before exams, but no one was injured, it was under control in 32 minutes, and the blaze did not spread to neighboring homes. One aspect of the fire caught some neighbors’ attention, however: The smoke spilled out of a third-story window, and the New Orleans Fire Department reported that it had started in a third-floor apartment. “My question is, why was there somebody in the attic?” said Keith Hardie, who lives two doors down from the apartment building.

Renovation of blighted firehouse to begin in 2024, developers say

The firehouse redevelopment team updated the Delachaise Neighborhood Association at the group’s November meeting about the plans for the blighted firehouse on Louisiana Avenue. The historic firehouse will be renovated to include seven units of permanently affordable housing upstairs, with an early childhood education center on the ground floor. The early childhood education center will also occupy the property’s outdoor space and an “accessory structure” behind the main building. 

The city owns the property and is leasing it to the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) for a 99-year term; NORA is currently managing the property but will sublease it to the development partner, who will put the building and surrounding space back into use. 

The developers for the project are Alembic Community Development, Home by Hand, Studio Kiro (the architecture firm overseeing the restoration of the Dew Drop Inn on LaSalle Street) and CDW Services as the general contractors. 

Members of the Alembic development team as well as NORA representative Seth Knudsen gave the updates on the project. Alembic team member Jonathan Leit was optimistic about the physical state of the building. “There’s always work to be done but, compared to other buildings we’ve worked on, it’s in pretty good shape,” Leit said. 

The overall cost of the renovations is expected to be around $4 million, and Leit said that they hope to have funding secured by the end of next year, with construction beginning in 2024 and the apartments and childhood education center ready to open in 2025.

Leaders express frustration with Folgers over outstanding taxes (sponsored)

New Orleans officials are expressing frustration with Folgers Coffee Co. for refusing to pay its outstanding property taxes, which fund schools, police and a variety of critical services. Nearly two years ago, the New Orleans City Council and Orleans Parish School Board both denied Folgers’ applications for tax exemptions. Nonetheless, the company still has not paid the taxes, and now it is arguing in court that it should never have to pay them. Civil District Judge Omar Mason will consider the matter at a hearing on Thursday (Nov.