With new hospital as worst-case scenario, neighbors rally to keep DePaul site “quiet”

Concerned that Children’s Hospital might one day develop the tranquil DePaul mental-health campus next to Audubon Park into a full-fledged hospital complex, a group of neighbors made a concerted effort before the city Tuesday to halt those changes before they happen. Established in 1883, the six-block De Paul site has long kept a park-like character that residents said is appropriate for its use as a mental-health facility. “Right now it’s a fairly benign neighbor,” said Jay Seastrunk, an architect who lives across Henry Clay Avenue from the site. “Not a lot goes on to impact the neighborhood.” A proposed change to the city’s Future Land Use Maps in the Master Plan would designate the site for “institutional” uses, however — the same category used for other major hospitals.

Walgreens developer buys old American Legion hall on Magazine, begins initial renovations

Renovations began Monday that will convert the former American Legion hall on Magazine Street into a new Walgreens pharmacy, after the developer of the project finalized its purchase of the building late last month. Stirling Properties now plans to transform the building’s solid brick facade into a more traditional New Orleans storefront of glass and columns, but the work will take months, Stirling vice president Peter Aamodt told the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association at a meeting Tuesday night. The company hopes to finish construction in July and open the Walgreens later that month or in August, he said. Although Walgreens plans to move its Tchoupitoulas location to its new Magazine Street store, the company will have options on its lease for the old location for the next 15 years, Aamodt said. Whether Walgreens will attempt to find a new tenant for a sublease or return the property to the shopping center’s owner has yet to be determined, Aamodt said, but reassured the neighbors that it would not go unused.

Controversial home demolition on St. Charles, restaurant on Magazine and nightclub on Freret all headed to City Council

Three Uptown land-use projects that have each generated a fair amount of controversy — the proposed demolition of a historic home on St. Charles Avenue, permission for a restaurant to open in spite of unpermitted additions and a new nightclub on Freret Street — are all slated for New Orleans City Council hearing on Thursday, according to the agenda. The most pressing issue will be a decision on the proposed Johnny V’s restaurant next to Monkey Hill bar on Magazine Street, which City Council rules prohibit from being delayed any longer. At issue is whether to modify the property’s land-use restrictions to incorporate additions to the building that were added without permission during a recent renovation. The Audubon Riverside Neighborhood Association has been tentatively in favor of a good-neighbor agreement with the restaurant for several months, and met again about the issue Tuesday night.

Johnny V’s decision tops Audubon-Riverside agenda

Whether to support the opening of a Magazine Street restaurant that improperly added an upstairs space will be decided tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 1) by the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association as the deadline nears for a City Council decision on the issue. Johnny V’s received permission to open next to Monkey Hill bar on Magazine Street more than two years ago, but an upstairs space not envisioned in the original permits was added during construction. The restaurant could conceivably open under its current conditional use if it removed those additions, but its owners are asking for permission to move forward without tearing out the extra space in exchange for more concessions to the neighbors. The Audubon-Riverside association voted in September not to oppose the restaurant’s plans in exchange for a number of new conditions: that Johnny V’s owners sign a legally-binding good-neighbor agreement to seal off the additional upstairs space to prevent its use, and that the restaurant secure a lease with the Perlis family for use of their parking lot after hours, among others.

Whole Foods ekes out minor concessions from City Council: 9 p.m. closing time, pumpkins on the patio

After nearly a year of discussions and negotiations with neighbors and the city, Whole Foods Arabella Station will now be able to stay open an hour later on Sundays and display plants for sale on its front patio, with the official approval Thursday of only the least controversial of its requested changes to its operating agreement with the city. Specifically, Whole Foods will now be able to stay open until 9 p.m. on Sundays — matching its closing time the rest of the week — with the condition that it finish all its exterior maintenance and cleanup by 10 p.m. nightly. The store can also display plants, flowers and pumpkins for sale along its Magazine Street side, but no more than four feet out from the front wall. The store had requested an increase in the number of 18-wheelers allowed to make deliveries per day from one to four, and an extension in the deadline for deliveries from its present cut off at 11 a.m. to a later time of 3 p.m. Those changes, the store has argued, would have the effect of decreasing the amount of deliveries from smaller trucks, as well as spreading their arrival through the day to reduce congestion. But Councilwoman Susan Guidry, whose district includes the Whole Foods store, said she found the extended loading times unnecessary, because the store already has to do most of its loading before its 9 a.m. opening to avoid shutting down parking spaces around the loading bays.

Neighborhoods to celebrate “Night Out Against Crime” with movie, health fair, cookouts and music

Neighborhoods around the city are preparing to celebrate the “National Night Out Against Crime” tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 11), and Uptown groups are all doing it their own way, with a movie night, a charity flea market, a health fair, multiple cookouts and live music. Here’s a list of events around Uptown:

Palmer Park (corner of South Carrollton and South Claiborne): Likely one of the largest events of the evening, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Music by Shocking Blond, food by Plum Street Snoballs, Crepes a la Cart and Fruit Sensations, prize wheel and fire engine exhibit. Hot dogs for $1 donation, and fundraising drive in support of NOPD and the fire department. Organized by the Carrollton Area Network (Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association, Carrollton United, Central Carrollton Association, Fontainebleau Improvement Association, Maple Area Residents Inc., StateStreetDrive.com, Northwest Carrollton Civic Association, Palmer Park Neighborhood Association).

Neighbors hope to stave off commercial redevelopment of apartments on Tchoupitoulas

Concerned that an apartment complex at the corner of State and Tchoupitoulas may be headed for unwelcome commercial redevelopment, the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association delved into the arcana of the city’s land-use planning process Tuesday night to cast votes in favor of keeping the property residential. The apartments, bought last December by investor Ben Gravolet, currently sit on land zoned for medical services. The city’s recently-adopted master plan envisions the land for low-density residential use, however, and Gravolet has requested that the property’s land-use be changed to “Mixed Use,” which allows any number of commercial uses. Roger Gorman, director of development at Children’s Hospital, said he had been approached by Gravolet to buy or lease the property, and that when the hospital declined, Gravolet replied that he was negotiating with CVS pharmacy over the site. A resident near State and Tchoupitoulas himself, Gorman said that he would be opposed to that sort of development on his corner — as did several other nearby residents who attended the meeting as well.

Audubon-Riverside neighborhood to consider Johnny V’s, several other issues

A number of ongoing land-use issues will be discussed tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 4) by the Audubon-Riverside Neighborhood Association, according to the meeting’s agenda. Among the issues before the board:

The good-neighbor agreement with Johnny V’s restaurant, agreeing not to oppose its opening in exchange for a number of operating concessions,
The zoning classification of the apartments at State and Tchoupitoulas, which residents are concerned could become some sort of medical complex,
An update on the Kidutopia child-care facility at 315 Webster,
A letter to Walgreens outlining operational concerns for the proposed Magazine Street store. The meeting will begin at 6:45 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 616 Eleonore Street.

Johnny V’s request splits City Planning Commission, heads to City Council without recommendation

A request by the proposed Johnny V’s restaurant to be allowed to open in spite of unauthorized expansions divided the City Planning Commission on Tuesday, sending it to the City Council for a decision with no formal recommendation either way. The commission had postponed its decision on Johnny V’s presentation last month, awaiting the outcome of negotiations over a contract to use the parking lot of nearby Perlis as a way of compensating for the added space in the restaurant. (The surrounding neighborhood association’s support for the project is contingent on that contract as well.) Stephen Kroll, a member of the planning commission staff, told the commission Tuesday that “no formal agreement” had been reached with Perlis, but that the staff continues to recommend approval of the changes. Johnny V’s has five spaces of its own, and has agreements with a nearby doctor’s office for six more and with the Shell station for 12, Kroll said, far more than the City Council had previously approved even if negotiations with Perlis fail — even though the restaurant will increase demand for on-street parking nearby regardless. “You’d probably need at least 50 spaces to ensure that every vehicle associated with both of those uses is off the street,” Kroll said, referring to Johnny V’s and the adjoining Monkey Hill Bar.