The New Orleans City Council gave the go-ahead Thursday to a proposal to demolish 13 multifamily buildings along the river end of State Street in Uptown, unanimously rebuffing the City Planning Commission, which had recommended rejecting the project.
The proposal calls for demolishing 68 units in the existing buildings along State Street between Tchoupitoulas and South Front streets and replacing them with one building containing as many as 48 units.
The site is near Children’s Hospital and covers about 83,000 square feet. It is in Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s district.
The Planning Commission staff had determined that the proposal was inconsistent with the city’s master plan. The plan’s Future Land Use Map identifies the site as being in a “residential low-density pre-war area,” and it limits new construction there to single- and two-family dwellings.
On Thursday, attorney Justin Schmidt, representing 225 State Street LLC co-owner Jim MacPhaille, told the council that he disagreed with the commission. “We are taking existing multifamily and we’re changing it to better multifamily,” he said. “We’re not creating new multifamily.”
Guidry sided with him, saying she believed the master plan’s authors intended to prevent new multifamily housing from being developed on sites where it does not now exist. In this case, she said, the development would reduce the number of units already there.
As a concession to nearby neighbors, she said, the developer has agreed to reduce the building’s height to no more than 60 feet, down from the 75 feet originally proposed.
Councilwoman Stacy Head said the proposal was “not in any way inconsistent or out of scale” with the surrounding neighborhood. She called the commission’s recommendation “a mistake in judgment.”
The council voted 7-0 to allow the project to proceed with one zoning waiver and 13 provisos.
The council on Thursday also backed developer Sean Cummings’ plan to transform two blocks of industrial buildings along the Bywater riverfront into six buildings with 260 apartments and more than 23,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
The Planning Commission voted 6-1 last month to recommend the project. The site is in Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey’s district. A handful of nearby residents expressed concern Thursday that the project would add too many units in a small area, potentially adding to congestion and creating parking issues. However, several council members praised Cummings’ vision for the proposal. It also was approved by a 7-0 vote.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.