A developer looking to build a “resort-style” destination, including a sand beach, swimming pool and two-story event space, on the Mississippi River at Algiers Point has begun holding community meetings in advance of starting the federal and local permitting process.
Gulfwater Properties wants to build Nola City Beach on 2.6 acres on the downriver side of the Algiers Point ferry terminal, at the end of Patterson Road. It wants to open the complex in 2020.
Built on an elevated wharf, the attraction would include a man-made beach, a pool area with cabanas and spa facilities, two restaurants, a wine bar, a private reception area and entertainment stages.
It would also have a mobile stage for concerts and public events, such as the annual Algiers bonfire and the Wednesdays on the Point summer concert series, according to marketing materials released by Gulfwater Properties, which has a 99-year lease with the property owner.
Managing Director Pieter Stoffels was out of the country and unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman said the area between the river and Opelousas Avenue has been divided up into seven zones and Gulfwater is hosting meetings for their residents through the end of August.
It held one last week. The next one will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Love Outreach Center, 501 Opelousas Ave.
Spokeswoman Valerie Robinson said residents of each zone are being contacted with invitations to their zone’s open house, though all the sessions are open to the public.
Once the permitting process begins in mid-2018, public meetings will be held in compliance with the City Planning Commission's neighborhood planning process, she said. The development will also need permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Robert Booms, president of the Algiers Point Association, said it’s too early to say whether the group will support the project because there are still so many hurdles ahead of it and many opportunities for it to change in design.
“We’ve indicated throughout that we were not ready to take a position one way or the other,” he said. “He needs quite a few permits, and he may or may not get those. We’d like to see the thing when it has all the permits … and has a final design.”
Gulfwater says the highest point of the two-story project will be 50 feet above land and below the 60-foot limit permitted by the area's zoning. Still, the company concedes that “the view of a small number of residents will be altered.”
Booms said his group has been meeting with Stoffels on and off since the end of 2015, and although the project has gotten considerably smaller since its initial conception, “it’s still a very large project at this point.”
Booms said Algiers Point, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, is seeing storefronts come alive with coffee shops and art galleries and isn’t eager to see anything that would destroy that atmosphere.
“Those are the kinds of things we really like,” he said.
Nola City Beach “doesn’t appear to be the kind of thing people from Algiers Point would go to, except maybe to have a fancy dinner once a month,” he said.
Booms said some of the early concerns involve crowds and parking.
Gulfwater says the development’s primary market would be visitors to New Orleans, particularly to the Central Business District and French Quarter. It expects to attract 260,000 guests per year, with 60 percent of them using the ferry to get across the river.
It says passenger volume on the Algiers-Canal Street ferry could rise from 480,000 riders in 2015 to 800,000 riders after NOLA City Beach opens. That could cause the ferry service to expand its hours, it says.
The proposed admission fee to the beach club and wine boutique is $15; paying guests would be reimbursed for the ferry.
Plans call for 110 parking spaces on the land side of the levee; more parking could be provided off-site with a shuttle service.
Hours of operation would be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekends.
Gulfwater says Nola City Beach would contract with private security to patrol the venue and parking areas.
This would be the first development in New Orleans for Stoffels, who has been in real estate for 25 years, primarily in Europe, according to the company.