An affordable housing development planned for Hollygrove has won the unanimous approval of the City Planning Commission.
Called Grove Place, the development would take up an entire square, about 1.8 acres, bounded by Earhart Boulevard and Monroe, Leonidas and Colapissa streets. Eleven existing doubles and triplexes, now vacant, will be renovated.
The developers, New Orleans Restoration Properties, are also planning to construct a three-story 20-unit apartment building at Earhart and Monroe, on a site that once held a Church’s Chicken. That section of the property has commercial zoning, requiring a use exception from the city for the multi-family residential building.
In total, there will be 43 units at Grove Place, a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments from 650 to 1,200 square feet. Three parking areas will hold a total of 43 vehicles.
Also in the plans are a new 1,888-square-foot community center and a shared green space at the center of the property, owned by Joseph Macaluso Realty Co., Laurence J. Macaluso Family and Florence M. Baker.
All of the rentals will go to people with income below the median for New Orleans, set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at $54,000 for a two-person household and $67,400 for a family of four.
Six units will be rented to households at 20% to 30% of the median income. The majority of the units will go to people who make 50% to 80% of the median income, currently $27,000 to $43,150 for a two-person household.
The City Planning Commission staff recommended approval in its report, stating: “The proposal will provide a significant public benefit by introducing high-quality, long term affordable housing and by redeveloping an otherwise significantly underdeveloped square in an amenity rich location.”
The location, the staff members noted, is an easy walking or biking distance to a range of stores and other amenities and has access to public transportation that can bring residents to major job hubs.
The proposal is next headed to the City Council, which has approved all six of the six affordable housing developments that have come before it. The council members have already signed on to a letter of support by District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso, whose district includes the Hollygrove site.
In a letter to the Louisiana Housing Corp., which is being asked to approve the 9% low-income housing tax credits for the development, Giarrusso states the developers have been working with nearby neighborhood associations and with direct neighbors for the the past two years.
“At my request, they have also changed their plans to accommodate a Planned Development to allow for more oversight by the Council to facilitate community inclusion,” Giarrusso stated.
The letter also said the New Orleans Restoration Properties group, led by Paul Alvin Irons, has also been working with officials from the neighboring Paul L. Dunbar School to provide housing to faculty and families of students.
“These efforts to engage the community while expanding housing opportunities are important to my district and have my support,” Giarrusso stated.
At least one member of the community had doubts about the project, according to a Neighborhood Participation Project report.
A neighbor at Leonidas and Colapissa, who was not named in city documents, objected primarily to the 20-unit apartment building, saying the development is inappropriately dense for a neighborhood dominated by single-family homes and was concerned about the traffic and parking it would generate.
“These plans are very clearly a short-sighted money grab on your company’s behalf, and my neighbors and myself will be fighting this development,” the neighbor stated in an email to New Orleans Restoration Properties.
The developers responded in part by saying the additional traffic would be lighter than it was for the fast-food restaurant, a usage that attracts 100s of cars every day; that the number of residents will fall within the range of the average number on a city block; and that the scale of the apartment building would match and even complement the scale of the buildings along Earhart.
“We were born and raised in Hollygrove and our main goal in this project is to see our neighborhood up there with the best of the others,” the developers wrote.
At the City Planning Commission hearing on May 11, two people — a representative from the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center and a representative from the Preservation Resource Center — spoke in support of the development. No one spoke against the development.
Nathan Lott with the Preservation Resource Center called the development “an example of synergy between our city’s preservations and housing goals.” The buildings to be renovated include a row of architecturally significant Craftsman-style doubles on Leonidas.
A date has not yet been set for the City Council hearing and vote.