City Council approves plan to replace McDonald’s building on St. Charles

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A rendering of the McDonald’s proposed for 3321 St. Charles Avenue. (via City of New Orleans)

The City Council gave McDonald’s approval to redevelop its St. Charles Avenue restaurant at its Dec. 6 meeting. The two-story structure in the Garden District will be torn down and replaced.

Planners and preservationists have been working with the fast-food chain for two years to determine an appropriate design for a purpose that the city has deemed inappropriate for the area. Fast-food restaurants are now essentially barred from the St. Charles overlay district, which has specific restrictions to make the area more pedestrian friendly and less auto-centric.

With the current building deemed a nonconforming use, the reconstruction project required a text amendment to the comprehensive zoning ordinance and a conditional-use permit. Both received City Council approval on Thursday.

“This has been a long haul for us,” said Shelley Landrieu, executive director of Garden District Association. “We have come to an agreement as of this morning, and we are happy to support them to rebuild the McDonald’s on St. Charles Avenue.”

The two measures passed with little discussion and no major objections. But the conditional-use measure had lots of provisos — 30 of them. Approval is needed for the parking, landscaping, signage, lighting, trash bins, sidewalks, curb cuts, intercom volume, security plan, grease trap screening, front setback and more.

The 28 parking spaces, although fewer than the original plan allowed, are still 15 over city’s maximum and will need an additional waiver. A traffic analysis also needs to be conducted.

“Y’all can start calling District B the land of the provisos,” said District B Councilman Jay H. Banks said. “We do that for a reason. There is a sweet spot between economic development and job creation and providing for the neighborhood, that its peace and tranquility are not negatively impacted.”

McDonald’s decided to start over with its Garden District outlet because the 1980s design put seating on the second floor, making it difficult for staff to monitor the dining area, according to local attorney Justin Schmidt, who represents the corporation. It also wanted to make better use of adjoining property it purchased after the building was constructed.

McDonald’s has been working intensively with the City Planning Commission for two years, Schmidt said. The planning process has also involved five visits to the Historic District Landmarks Commission to work out compliance.

In addition, Schmidt said, McDonald’s and the franchise owner have agreed to contribute improvements to the live oak canopy on St. Charles Avenue and the pocket park at Pleasant Street and St. Charles.

The City Planning Commission staff has remained skeptical, concerned that approval would set a precedent for eliminating the nonconforming status. But Banks, whose district includes the McDonald’s, backed the measures, which passed with seven yea and no nay votes.

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