Walgreens purchase, renovation of American Legion to cost $5.8 million, developer tells neighborhoods

The purchase and renovation of the old American Legion building on Magazine Street will cost nearly $6 million, requiring a tenant that can pay approximately $600,000 per year for the lease, the developer eying the property for a possible Walgreens told neighborhood leaders on Friday. Stirling Properties plans to replace the brick facade with a glass wall, preserve some of the American Legion features inside the building and add a drive-through to the 40-space parking lot in the rear. Although the commercial zoning would allow the store to stay open 24 hours and sell alcohol, current plans are to do neither, closing instead at 10 p.m., the representatives of three neighborhoods surrounding the site wrote in a letter to members Sunday evening. The neighborhood leaders recommended the developer call a meeting with the public to discuss the project, the letter says, but no date has been announced. Read the full letter below:
Dear ARNA, Hurtsville, and Upper Hurtsville neighbors,

You may know that a prospective developer of the Magazine Street American Legion site asked to meet with representatives of Hurstville, Upper Hurtsville, and ARNA to discuss a possible development on the site.

Limited changes planned for controversial Pilates studio on Magazine (live coverage)

A controversial Pilates studio will lower its Magazine Street facade and provide a handful of additional parking spaces in a nearby lot during peak hours, but those concessions were voluntary and all that upset neighbors can expect, city officials told a crowd of more than 100 people Monday evening. Romney Pilates, which caused a furor among neighbors in December when construction began on the third story of its new building across from Whole Foods, has secured state fire marshal approval to remove the front portion of that third story, dropping the front face to a height of about 36 feet in a camelback style, said District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry and Michael Sherman, the city’s director of intergovernmental relations. Further, Romney will supplement the five parking spaces on its lot with five more in the lot about a block away at 5530 Magazine from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m., the Pilates studio’s busiest hours. The studio’s owners, however, technically followed all the city’s procedures properly in their requests for size and parking variances, so the city has “no legal leg to stand on” to require any changes to the building’s design, Guidry said. To an audience of many neighbors concerned by either the influx of even more traffic to an area where parking is already difficult, or by a building design they say does not fit with the streetscape, Guidry said all she can really do is share in their frustration.

Tonight’s community meeting about Romney Pilates construction postponed

A meeting of Magazine Street-area neighbors concerned about the construction of a new Pilates studio has been postponed temporarily, an organizer said Wednesday morning. Romney Pilates, currently located on Magazine near Amelia, is planning to move farther uptown to a new site across from the Whole Foods supermarket. Construction has already begun, but the design of the new building has drawn the interest of several neighborhood groups. The announcement of a meeting about the Romney project originally set for today set off a flurry of email alerts and conversations Wednesday among members of the Audubon-Riverside, Hurstville and Upper Hurstville neighborhood associations, which together represent most of the households Jefferson Avenue and Audubon Park, from St. Charles Avenue to the river.

Two new members elected to Hurstville Neighborhood Improvement District board

The five-member board of the Hurstville Neighborhood Improvement District filled two vacancies at its annual meeting Thursday night. Marshall Page and Dennis Brady will replace outgoing members Arthur Huguley and Emily Arata, based on the unanimous vote of the members present. Remaining on the board will be president Louis Gertler, Bridget Bories and Mary Margaret Gorman.

Hurstville Security District considers increased patrols

The Hurstville Security District may be able to increase the amount of extra police patrols in the neighborhood thanks to a surplus in their annual budget, board members said Wednesday night. The district is funded by a $460 fee on each of the more than 750 parcels within its boundaries, which run roughly from Nashville Avenue to Jefferson Avenue between Magazine Street and Loyola Avenue but includes a handful of other adjacent blocks. The district had been spending roughly $187,00 a year to hire off-duty New Orleans Police Department officers for 15 hours of extra patrol per day, but even after insurance, administrative costs and contributions to a reserve fund for emergencies, the district is still running about a $40,000 annual surplus, said president George Young. Shelley Landrieu, the executive director for the district, attributed the surplus to two causes. First, in reviewing its finances, the city had found money owed to the district from previous years, but Landrieu said this was only a “couple of thousand” dollars.

Garden District: Neighborhood district councils would only be “more bureaucracy”

A plan to create formal councils of neighborhood groups to increase citizen participation in city government would only “many more layers of bureaucracy” and should be scrapped, according to a letter from the Garden District Association published by The Lens. The letter suggesting changes to the Citizen Participation Project was written by Shelley Landrieu, director of the Garden District group but also a leader of the Baronne Street Neighborhood Association and Audubon Area Zoning Association. Instead of new councils based on city planning districts, the Garden District would prefer more formalized opportunities for neighborhood association input within the city’s existing policy-making process. The director of the group that drafted the plan told Karen Gadbois of The Lens that the Garden District had drawn “inaccurate conclusions.” The letter was copied to numerous other neighborhood groups, including many in the Uptown: the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association, the Touro Bouligny Association, the Baronne Street Neighborhood Association, the St.