The City Council again deferred voting on a proposal Thursday to erect a mid-rise, mixed-use development on the former Holy Cross School site in the Lower 9th Ward.
The proposal has provoked considerable controversy in the neighborhood, with some residents saying the proposed buildings would be out of scale with the surrounding, mostly low-rise neighborhood. Other residents, however, see the project as needed economic development for a neighborhood that has struggled to rebound since Hurricane Katrina.
Councilman James Gray, whose district includes the site, said he deferred the matter to give the developers and residents an opportunity to try to come to a consensus.
“It was to give everyone more time to have more conversations about it,” Gray said. Gray also delayed voting on the matter at the council’s April 10 meeting. It is now scheduled to be considered May 8.
When the issue comes up again, the council will have three new members, as Thursday’s meeting was the last for Jackie Clarkson, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Kristin Gisleson Palmer. They are being replaced by Jason Williams, Jared Brossett and Nadine Ramsey, respectively.
Gray has previously expressed support of the project, saying it would spur further development in the neighborhood.
The proposal in question, as originally presented by the Perez architectural firm, called for structures of varying scales, including two seven-story, 75-foot-tall buildings, at the former site of Holy Cross School, which relocated to Gentilly after Katrina. The project was to include 284 residential units as well as retail space and the Perez firm’s offices.
The plan called for redeveloping the former school’s entire site — stretching between Deslonde and Reynes streets and from the levee to Burgundy Street — with the exception of the former baseball field.
The company announced this week that it has lowered the height of the two proposed 75-foot buildings to 60 feet. The revised plan also includes 161 fewer residential units and eliminates proposed development north of Royal Street, the company said in a news release.
The City Council was supposed to vote Thursday on Perez’s request to change the site’s zoning from two-family residential to commercial so as to accommodate the mixed-use development.
Opponents have argued that the proposal is too intense for a residential neighborhood and physically out of scale with existing buildings.
“It’s the type of zoning you would see in the CBD and not tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood,” said Sarah DeBacher, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association. “It’s really inappropriate.”
Both the City Planning Commission and the Historic District Landmarks Commission were divided on whether to endorse the project with the two 75-foot buildings, so the proposal went to the council without an official recommendation from either body.
Perez called the latest changes an attempt to reach a compromise with the neighborhood association, but DeBacher said the new plan is unacceptable because it still requires a zoning change that would allow for structures out of character with the neighborhood.
Supporters of the project, including Gray, have said it would attract other development and investment to the Lower 9th Ward.
Petitions in support of the plan came under fire when the neighborhood association accused Perez of manufacturing support for the plan. A petition featured on a website created by the firm contained false addresses and other discrepancies to make support for the project appear more robust than it really is, the neighborhood association said in an email to council members. Gray’s office pulled the item from the April 10 agenda shortly after receiving that email.