New Orleans city planners Tuesday unanimously rejected plans for a proposed upscale hostel — or “poshtel” — proposed for a stretch of vacant land along the Mississippi River in Bywater.
The City Planning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend denying a required conditional-use permit for the project. In doing so, the commission went against the recommendation of its staff, siding with residents who were concerned the hostel would attract rowdy partygoers to its pool and bar and cause headaches for nearby residents and businesses.
The final decision rests with the City Council. The site is in the district of Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, who generally is pro-development.
The project — to be bordered by Royal, Mazant, Chartres and Bartholomew streets — has a budget of nearly $18 million. Plans call for some shared, hostel-style rooms with shared bathrooms, some private rooms with private baths, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, a coffee shop, laundromat, bar, pool and parking lot.
The project, to be called Stateside, needs a conditional-use permit from the city because it would exceed 10,000 square feet. Although the planning staff said it could “create certain nuisances that could affect the surrounding residential properties,” it recommended approving the permit with 14 stipulations, including a prohibition on amplified noise from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m.
The staff’s report noted that a hostel is a permitted use in that area and could open up new lodging options in a historic neighborhood.
Instead, several commission members spoke against the project, some crediting developer Ted Kelso for working with neighbors on his plan and making adjustments based on their comments, but mostly agreeing with critics that the proposal is out-of-scale with the neighborhood and that enough hasn’t been done to mitigate noise concerns.
At times, Tuesday’s discussion exposed a rift between two residential groups that cover the area.
The Bywater Neighborhood Association, a longtime group that generally is in favor of development — including this one, saying that the hostel would ease demand for short-term rentals in Bywater, as well as eliminate blight and offer new amenities to residents — is opposed by Neighbors First for Bywater, a splinter residents’ group that is against the hostel.
Kelso said the project would provide a much-needed economic shot to the area. “It’s a vacant lot right now,” he said. “It’s not doing anybody any good.”
Adam Aronovitz, who said his travels abroad frequently include lengthy stays in hostels, said New Orleans has a dearth of quality facilities of this type. It would attract “the type of traveler that has a little bit more money: the type of traveler that’s going to be willing to eat and go out and enjoy the city and spend some of the money that they’ve earned in other parts of the world.”
Many residents weren’t swayed, saying the proposed 48,000-square-foot project is too large yet wouldn’t alleviate existing housing strains in the historic neighborhood.
“Bywater is under tremendous stress,” said Jenny Breen, who co-owns The Joint, a nearby barbecue restaurant. “Our neighborhood, culture and lifestyle are on the line, and approval would certainly tip the scales for sending Bourbon Street downriver and into our lives.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.