Frank’s Steakhouse — the landmark restaurant that reigned over Freret Street for decades — was unceremoniously knocked to the ground on Wednesday in a dramatic illustration of the changing times in New Orleans. The Frank’s complex in the 4500 block of Freret was the last major undeveloped property on the corridor since a wave of new business openings began around five years ago. On July 2, Arnold Kirschman finalized his purchase of the buildings from the Barreca family who had owned them for the better part of a century, as part of a plan to demolish the steakhouse in the center of the block to rebuild a stretch of buildings matching the old cleaners on the corner of Cadiz. Kirschman said Thursday morning that he is still in the process of meeting with his architects, contractors, real-estate agents and city officials to hammer out a final timeline for the construction of the new buildings, which will be three-stories tall with apartments in the upper two floors. He has yet to line up any commercial tenants, he said, though he has decided to limit the project to at most only one new restaurant, so that the businesses will be the best fit to match the residents.
Although the Freret Street Festival is now in its 17th year, its growth in recent years has mirrored the rapid redevelopment of the commercial corridor — and this year, the April 5 event will stretch all the way to Jefferson Avenue for the first time, adding a fifth music stage to its lineup, organizers said. In 2013, the event drew more than 23,000 people, organizers said — a dramatic increase from fewer than 10,000 just two or three years earlier. This year, 30,000 people are expected, and organizers are looking for ways to ease congestion so that walking on Freret during the festival remains as pleasant as possible. One change is that the event will extend from Napoleon Avenue all the way to Jefferson (instead of stopping a few blocks before Jefferson as in the past), but will have the same number of vendors as last year — 200, said Michelle Ingram of Zeus’ Place and the Freret Market. “We’re not adding vendors; we’re just spacing out those we have,” Ingram said.
Sure, New Orleans already has an “official” oyster festival. But Woody Ruiz of the ubiquitous festival fish tacos thought the middle of summer was kind of an odd time to eat oysters, and he wanted a chance to give the big names downtown a run for their money on oyster preparation. On Sunday (Jan. 19), Ruiz will get his chance, when he partners with the founders of Freret Market to create the first (hopefully annual) Freret Oyster Jam in the parking lot of the Publiq House. “What will people go outside to eat in the cold weather?
Freret Clay Center, a new nonprofit promoting ceramics art and education, will hold its grand opening at 2525 Jena Street with a group exhibition from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday. Six artists will participate in the exhibition. For more information, see the Freret Clay Center website.
The ongoing repaving of Freret Street will reduce traffic to one lane and prohibit parking down the commercial corridor for most of the next month, officials said as the work begins Monday. The entire stretch between Louisiana and Jefferson is being patched and resurfaced, and workers will begin removing asphalt from the commercial section between Napoleon and Jefferson starting Monday, according to a notice from the contractor, Command Construction. During that time, only one direction of traffic will be allowed on Freret, the notice states. No parking will be allowed on either side of the street or for the first 50 feet of intersecting streets. Improperly parked vehicles will be towed at their owners’ expense.
The Barreca-owned behemoth at Cadiz Street is Freret’s white whale. So what’s going on there right now?
In a matter of weeks, construction is set to begin on a new project to repave Freret Street and to try yet again to correct the installation of new “bump-out” corners at the intersections. That project will join a series of others — a similar repaving of Broadway Street, the ongoing construction of a new drainage canal under Napoleon Avenue, the recent commencement of the same project on Jefferson Avenue, the upcoming start of another canal project on Louisiana Avenue, and the year-long repairs to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line — that place most of the major thoroughfares through the interior of Uptown New Orleans under some sort of roadwork. Returning to Freret
Freret is soon to see two simultaneous projects begin in August, according to an update this week from city spokesman C. Hayne Rainey. First, the contractor that installed new bump-outs along the corridor must return to repair six corners at Valmont, Robert and Cadiz streets, making them accessible for people with disabilities.
Just two weeks after the 2013 Freret Street Festival drew record-setting crowds, Dat Dog, The Other Bar and Gasa Gasa will be hosting another festival Saturday evening, “Uptown Sounds,” featuring acoustic sets, DJs and full bands. The festival runs from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and will also feature art and film, and is being organized by Loyola University’s Music Industries Studies program, according to a post at The New Freret website.
Proponents of a new fee-based security district in the Freret neighborhood faced an hour’s worth of skeptical questions Tuesday night from residents whose opposition ranged from the specific fee itself to much broader issues about gentrification of the neighborhood. “I don’t want to further subsidize these businesses through an increase in property taxes,” said Soniat Street resident George Chaney. Advocates for a security district, led by Kellie Grengs and Michelle Ingram of Zeus’ Place (both known for their work with The New Freret business and property owners association), have said that their research shows a fee of $300 per parcel attached to property tax bills would pay for 24-hour coverage by a private security officer in the neighborhood from Claiborne Avenue to Danneel Street. That $300, however, is only the upper limit of what they might want, they said Tuesday night before a crowd of more than 100 people. Less coverage may be needed, they said, and some of the money might be spent on more lighting and surveillance cameras in the neighborhood.
The Freret Neighbors United will hold an extended meeting tonight (Tuesday, March 12) to discuss a proposed new security district in the neighborhood, and the Milan Focus Group will meet Wednesday to hear from city and police officials. The Neighbors United meeting will convene at Samuel Green Charter School at 6 p.m. for neighbors to socialize, and the agenda items will begin at 6:30 p.m. In addition to the security-district proposal — a $300 fee on property taxes to pay for a 24-hour private patrol officer — the group will also prioritize infrastructure needs in the neighborhood to present to the city. Anyone who cannot attend is welcome to join the ongoing discussions at the groups Facebook page. The Milan Focus Group will hold its monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Atkinson-Stern Tennis Center, 4025 S. Saratoga Street. Among the agenda items are a visit from District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, a discussion with NOPD Sixth District leaders about crime and the upcoming anti-crime march, and updates on business and blight in the neighborhood.