Baby Ben on Jefferson reopens after renovation

From NOLA Public Schools

Officials with NOLA Public Schools, the Orleans Parish School Board and Benjamin Franklin Elementary Mathematics and Science School staff celebrated its newly renovated school building Friday (Feb. 7) at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on campus. Approximately 150 people gathered at the intimate ceremony, which also marked the return of students to the building. The event was moderated by OPSB Board Vice President Woody Koppel. “Benjamin Franklin Elementary Mathematics and Science School has stood out as one of our exceptional schools for many years,” said Henderson Lewis Jr., superintendent of NOLA Public Schools.

Central City Library to open Wednesday in new location

The Central City Library will open in its new location on Wednesday (Feb. 5) at 10 a.m.

The new branch library in the Allie Mae Williams Multi-Service Center promises to be larger and more accessible than the previous location in the Mahalia Jackson Center. The hours will expand at the new location to include Saturdays. The library will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It will have dedicated areas for children and teens and more public computers for the community to use.

Newman School receives major donation for a new arts building

Isidore Newman School has announced a capital donation from Boysie and Joy Bollinger in support of its arts program. This gift, the second $3 million gift in Newman’s history, is the lead donation to fund construction of a state-of-the-art performing arts building on Jefferson Avenue. The 5,500-square-foot building will hold acoustically optimized rehearsal rooms for Newman’s band and choir programs as well as an art gallery for student work, according to the school. The arts project also includes the construction of a flexible black-box-inspired theater space for smaller student productions. The Bollingers make this gift as philanthropic leaders in the New Orleans community and as the grandparents of two current Newman students.

City approves Tulane police substation at the former site of a notorious frat house

By Emily Carmichael, Uptown Messenger

Tulane University has won city approval to build a Tulane University Police Department substation on the previous site of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity building across from The Boot Bar and Grill. The now vacant lot at 1036 Broadway is zoned as residential and required a conditional use approval to be used in a public works and safety capacity. As Uptown Messenger previously reported, the station will be a single story, 3,600-square-foot building to serve as a 24/7 command center for TUPD’s off-campus patrols. The City Council approved the conditional use by a unanimous vote on Thursday, Jan. 16, following an earlier City Planning Commission recommendation.

Lower Garden District neighbors question rezoning request for former corner store

A request to rezone a long-shuttered corner store on Josephine Street back into commercial use is raising questions among neighbors in the Lower Garden District, who say the lack of a specific tenant and the wide range of possible uses create the potential for trouble on a vulnerable residential block. Matt Hamdan of Metairie has owned the single-story brick building at 700 Josephine St. (at the intersection with Chippewa Street) since the early 1980s, he said at a recent meeting with neighbors. He building has been vacant since before Hurricane Katrina, when he closed the corner store there before, he said. During that time, it lost its commercial zoning, and the property is now classified for two-family residential.

New wine store planned for Carrollton near Oak

By Sue Strachan, Uptown Messenger 
For Allyson and Milton Hernandez, the dream of opening a wine shop just off Oak Street started fermenting back in June. “We live in the neighborhood and didn’t see anything like it,” said Milton Hernandez, with Allyson Hernandez adding: “We thought ‘why not us.’”
Their business, Vino Wine and Spirits, is tentatively scheduled to open at 1124 S. Carrollton Ave. in March 2020 if a zoning change and permits are approved. A City Planning Commission hearing, scheduled on Jan. 14, is for a specific zoning request for a conditional use to permit the retail sale of packaged alcoholic beverages, according to the business’s land-use application.

Building on Sophie Wright Place applies for short-term rental approval

By Sue Strachan, Uptown Messenger

The wners of 1901-07 Sophie Wright Place met with neighbors in the Lower Garden District on Tuesday, Non. 16, about their plans to turn a second-floor unit into a short-term rental. 

Ash Salem, Raouf Mousa and Ralph Mousa (as 1901 Sophie Wright LLC)  purchased the property in April 2019. They also own apartment-rental units in Lakeview, Chalmette and Mid-City. Most people know the building as the location of the Munch Factory restaurant, located on the first floor, and its proximity to Half Moon Restaurant, Hi-Volt coffee shop and Il Mercato, an event rental space. There is a commercial permit for the property and the owners have already applied for STR permits for three second-floor units, two of which are already allowed by city ordinance, with the owners applying for a conditional use for one short-term rental in a HU-B1 zoning district (Historic Urban Neighborhood Business District).

Magazine Street office complex design needs more pizzazz, neighbors tell architects

By Sharon Lurye, Uptown Messenger

The monthly board meeting of the Lower Garden District Association on Monday featured a presentation on plans for a new office and retail building at 1335 Magazine St. The three-story building will include features such as meditation areas, a library, co-working space and a two-level terrace — making it stand out as a modern office building. “When you enter this courtyard, the idea is for it to feel like a spa,” said Patrick Schindler, president of Felicity Property Co., the real estate firm behind the project. But while the presenters promised that the space would be Zen, some audience members at the meeting seemed to think of the building plan was just Zzzz. “It does look square and boxy,” one member of the audience commented during the question-and-answer period.

Proposed tennis club in Dixon slowly winds its way toward approval

The City Planning Commission gave its support Tuesday to allowing Kevin Chaouat, a former Xavier University tennis player and now a coach at Xavier, to establish a tennis club to the Dixon area. The City Council had voted Thursday, Nov. 7, to approve an amendment to Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance that allows country clubs in residential neighborhoods. The tennis center is classified as a “country club” for zoning purposes. The City Council now has to revisit the issue, to vote on allowing Chaouat’s project as a conditional use.

Windowsill Pies to open a cafe on Freret Street

A new addition will soon join the mix of restaurants along Freret Street. This one will offer all-natural handmade pies, both sweet and savory. Windowsill Pies, an 8-year-old catering and wholesale bakery, is planning a cafe with artisan pies and tarts. The goal is to be open by Thanksgiving, said Nicole Eiden, who co-owns Windowsill with Marielle Dupré. “It will be a European-style cafe — multi-generational,” Eiden said.