Plans for an upscale hostel on the Bywater riverfront drew sharp criticism Tuesday from some nearby residents, and city planners delayed a decision on whether to support the proposal for two weeks.
Local developer Ted Kelso has proposed building a 48,000-square-foot “poshtel” with 44 rooms — a mix of shared, hostel-style rooms with shared bathrooms and private rooms with private bathrooms. The proposal also calls for a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, a coffee shop, a laundromat, a bar and a parking lot.
The project requires a conditional-use permit from the city because it would exceed 10,000 square feet.
The City Planning Commission staff has approved the project in concept — saying it is in line with “the general purpose and intent of the applicable zoning district regulations” — but recommended the commission defer a recommendation to allow the Historic District Landmarks Commission’s Architectural Review Committee to weigh in first.
The final decision will be up to the City Council.
Kelso told the commission Tuesday that the zoning law allows a hostel to be operated at the now-vacant site, which formerly housed a seafood processing plant. The property, bordered by Royal, Mazant, Chartres and Bartholomew streets, is owned by lawyer John Cummings.
The planning staff noted that the hostel could “create certain nuisances that could affect the surrounding residential properties.”
Kelso told neighbors during a public meeting last year that the building’s shared rooms would accommodate from four to 10 guests each. He said the property is expected to cater to “millennial-type consumers, ages 20-34,” with a focus on international travelers.
On Tuesday, he pitched the proposal as “a legal solution” for drawing visitors to Bywater in a way that would help to curb the controversial short-term rental market.
The project has support from the Bywater Neighborhood Association, but nearly a dozen residents voiced opposition. Some warned that it could attract loud, drunk partygoers and become a nuisance to nearby residents and businesses. They said the concept might work in Miami or Las Vegas but not in Bywater.
“It’s very clearly out of scale. It’s inconsiderate toward the surrounding neighbors,” said Pete Breen, who owns The Joint, a nearby barbecue restaurant.
After hearing from the residents, several commission members sounded as if they were ready to send the proposal to the City Council with a recommendation for denial.
“I think it’s absolutely essential that some of the concerns that are being brought forth by the neighborhood around design concerns, around noise” be addressed, Chairman Kyle Wedberg said.
Ultimately, the commission voted to defer a vote.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.