A pair of homes next to a carwash on Tchoupitoulas face a steeper path to commercial redevelopment after a request for their demolition was denied Tuesday. With little to no opposition, however, the city did approve demolitions of two homes owned by Tulane University to make room for an expansion of the library, as well as part of the Booker T. Washington school on South Rampart and a caretaker’s cottage at the former LaSalle school being redeveloped near Audubon Park. Tchoupitoulas | The two homes in the 5500 block of Tchoupitoulas are owned by Uptown Carwash, said attorney Justin Schmidt. The reason for the demolition request is so the lots can be redeveloped into separate commercial sites adjacent to the carwash, though Schmidt declined to name prospective tenants while negotiations are ongoing. That plan faced opposition from both Michelle Kimball of the Preservation Resource Center and Betsy Stout of the Louisiana Landmark Society (and also a resident of nearby Nashville Street).
A proposed change in the zoning of the DePaul medical campus owned by Children’s Hospital could greatly expand the possibilities for commercial development in the middle of an Audubon Park neighborhood, drawing the attention and concern of neighbors and their City Councilwoman. Spanning six blocks on either side of Calhoun Street and surrounded by a tall brick wall, the site of the former DePaul Hospital has been used for mental-health facilities for much of its existence since it was established by nuns in 1876. Children’s Hospital bought the property about five years ago, and currently uses one of the main buildings for a pediatric mental health facility, leases the other to LSU for an adult psychiatric unit, and has a number of other functions such as its Parenting Center in the lower-lying buildings on the campus. Technically, the campus carries the same residential zoning as the neighborhood that surrounds it. Its medical functions are allowed by a special exception that would expire if the site were to be abandoned for more than six months, and that restricts the changes that can be made to basic extensions of the services already there.
After hearing from a procession of worried neighbors, the City Planning Commission voted to reject all but the least controversial of Whole Foods’ requested operational changes, possibly reducing months of efforts by the Magazine Street grocery into an extra hour of business on Sunday and the ability to put plants in front of the store. A major addition to the nearby Poydras Home retirement community was approved in accordance with the architects’ and neighbors wishes, but a decision was deferred on the expansion of the Monkey Hill bar into Johnny V’s restaurant amid concerns about parking and the nature of the expansion itself. Whole Foods
Whole Foods Arabella Station spent months negotiating with the surrounding Audubon Riverside Neighborhood Association in hopes of support for five requested changes to its operating agreement with the city: the ability to stay open until 9 p.m. on Sundays (as on the other six nights), more than one 18-wheeler per day, expanded hours in which deliveries are allowed, permission to display plants for sale on the front patio, and permission to host live music once or twice a month. On the deliveries, the most controversial issue, the store has argued that more 18-wheelers would mean fewer smaller trucks in total, and less impact on the neighborhood. Neighbors have accused the store of violating its existing operating rules, and said the store is already a shopping destination far too large for the small surrounding neighborhood and streets that should not be given additional concessions.
Developers of a new Walgreens proposed for the old American Legion Hall on Magazine Street presented three renovation designs concepts to a crowd of Uptown residents Tuesday evening, saying that they are moving away from the more modern storefront design that initially bothered some neighbors. “What we showed before was a very modern design, and a lot of people didn’t like it,” said architect Mac Ball. As they examined the architecture along the street, they found glass storefronts and overhanging balconies to be common architectural features.The two newer designs for the property both have balconies, though the third design exchanges some of the glass windows for more brickwork in its columns and on its ends. “This is a direction,” developer Louis Stirling said of the three designs, each moving away from that initial modern concept. “My approach has always been that we have to build something we’ll all be proud of.
Most of Uptown New Orleans appears likely to avoid a political tug-of-war over redrawing City Council boundaries, though one proposal would change the representation for a handful of neighborhoods along Jefferson Avenue. Of the five proposed redistricting plans unveiled this weekend, four show no changes to representation Uptown whatsoever, and one slides six voting precincts along Jefferson Avenue from Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s District A into Councilwoman Stacy Head’s District B.
For the last decade, all of Uptown has been divided between districts A and B along a line that runs the length of Jefferson Avenue from the river to Fontainebleau, then heads up Carrollton toward Mid-City. Guidry represents everything upriver of Jefferson into Lakeview (including the Audubon, Carrollton, Riverbend, and Leonidas neighborhoods); Head represents everyone downriver into the Central Business District (including Freret, Milan, Touro, the Garden Distirct and the Irish Channel); and both reach into parts of Mid-City. District A lost fewer people since 2000 than the rest of the city, so Guidry will have to give up some territory. District B’s population loss was about the same rate as the city as a whole, so it does not need any changes at all, and under some of the possible scenarios it simply is left touched.
With tentative neighborhood support after a meeting with the new owner of the former NOCCA school building, high-end condos are emerging as a likely next life of the century-old Uptown New Orleans landmark. Developer Jim MacPhaille met June 8 with the zoning committee of the Upper Hurstville Neighborhood Association to discuss options for the old LaSalle School on Perrier, and left with their preliminary agreement with a plan to convert it into a development of about 15 to 18 high-end condos with a few standalone homes on the side of the property. The condos would likely sell for $400 per square foot, he said, and the site would likely have about 48 parking spaces on it. MacPhaille, who placed a winning bid of $2.45 million on the building April 28, told the group that he has also been approached by an unspecified French school and a nursing home developer to buy it instead, and that because he is scheduled to close the sale of the building with the school board at the end of the month, he needed to know the neighborhood’s general opinion soon. “The process, unfortunately for condos, right now is about an eight-month process for condos.
Leaders of three neighborhoods representing thousands of Uptown New Orleans homes worry that upcoming changes intended to reduce corruption in police overtime work will weaken the protection they receive from off-duty officers, and are requesting a meeting with NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas to discuss the reforms.
Many Uptown neighborhoods, either through volunteer collections or through special self-imposed taxing districts, hire either off-duty NOPD officers or private security companies to conduct additional patrols in their neighborhood. These officers are intended to deter criminals through increased presence, always be close enough to respond to calls quickly and also perform more direct security functions, such as watching to ensure residents make it from their cars to the front doors safely at night. The entire system of paid police details has come under close scrutiny of late. In announcing the results of their investigation into the NOPD, federal investigators famously decried the detail system as an “aorta of corruption” through the department, and ranking officers have recently been suspended for forming private companies to contact with the department for various tasks. In response, Chief Serpas has proposed significant reforms to the system, placing it all under the oversight of an independent office and removing individual officers’ autonomy to run the details.
The former NOCCA school building on Perrier Street in Uptown New Orleans sold at auction Thursday for $2.45 million to a couple who said they bought the century-old building in order to save it. “It’s one of the best pieces of real estate in Uptown,” said developer Jim MacPhaille, the winning bidder. The building, constructed in 1901, has been vacant since the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts moved out several years before Hurricane Katrina. The Orleans Parish School board has made several previous attempts to sell the property, and Lusher Charter School briefly considered moving in but deemed the $10 million in expected renovation costs too high. The building came to auction Thursday morning with an appraised value and starting bid of $1.5 million, based on the high value of the large Uptown parcel minus the costs of tearing the building down, which the appraiser deemed the most affordable use of it.
The former NOCCA school building on Perrier Street is scheduled to return to the auction block at the end of the month, with a new sale price set low enough to encourage its purchase by developers and demolition for new Uptown homes. The Orleans Parish School Board had previously tried to sell the century-old school building several years ago, but failed to draw an offer higher than its appraised value at the time, which was higher than $3 million, said Stan Smith, chief financial officer for the district. State law regarding public-property auctions has since been changed and the property was reappraised last month, and the minimum bid is now $1.5 million, far closer to the offers that were received during the previous sale attempt, Smith said. The Perrier Street property, referred to by its pre-NOCCA name of the “LaSalle School,” was built in 1901, but has been vacant since NOCCA left in 2000. It now suffers from “advanced depreciation from age, exposure to the elements, storm damage, vandalism and functional obsolescence,” the appraisal reads.
An officer with New Orleans Private Patrol chased a coyote through the stately streets surrounding Audubon Park last weekend, prompting a warning to area residents to watch their pets. Capt. James Baldassaro was called to a home on Garfield Street near State last Friday for a sighting of coyote on the loose. While he was writing the report, he said, the coyote emerged from a side yard and began loping down the street. He followed it until it reached Camp Street headed toward Jefferson reaching the outer boundaries of the neighborhoods patrolled by New Orleans Private Patrol. Baldassaro said he contacted the New Orleans Police Department and a private wildlife removal company, but has not heard since Friday whether the animal found or seen again.