Few neighbors seemed to disagree that the mostly red brick, multifamily buildings along State Street in Uptown New Orleans are an eyesore that need to go.
But they weren’t willing to accept just anything in their place, and neither was the City Planning Commission, which voted 6-1 Tuesday to reject a proposal to replace the buildings with a single condominium building.
In a different project, commission members voted to grant a conditional-use permit that would let Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s aunt, Phyllis Landrieu, demolish two ranch-style single-family homes — including her home — to build a 10-unit condominium building on the river side of the 2400 block of St. Charles Avenue, between First and Second streets.
More than a dozen neighbors turned out for the Planning Commission meeting to either support or oppose a proposal to redevelop 13 multifamily residential buildings along State Street between Tchoupitoulas and South Front streets into one 49-unit condominium building.
The parcel, located near Children’s Hospital, close to the river, consists of 10 lots totaling about 83,000 square feet.
Attorney Justin Schmidt, representing 225 State Street LLC co-owner Jim MacPhaille, said plans call for demolishing the 68 units spread across 13 buildings in favor of the one structure.
The proposed units would have two to three bedrooms. The plan also calls for 96 parking spaces, 77 of which would be contained in the building, as well as an outdoor pool.
“This is not the model we want for our city,” Schmidt said about the existing structures. “You wouldn’t want this out on Veterans Highway, and we certainly don’t want it in Uptown New Orleans.”
Some neighbors who spoke against the project said that at 75 feet, it would be too tall compared with the surrounding area.
“In my opinion, it looks pretty absurd,” Dara Hoell said. “It dwarfs everything else in the area.”
The Planning Commission staff said the project would be 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 the plan allows multifamily developments in such an area only when they preserve existing multifamily buildings or involve the adaptive reuse of nonresidential structures.
Because the project calls for construction of a huge new building, the staff recommended against it, and ultimately, commission members agreed, voting to reject it.
The final decision is up to the City Council. The site is in Councilwoman Susan Guidry’s district.
Meanwhile, Phyllis Landrieu’s plans call for demolishing the existing homes on her property to build a 571/2-foot-tall building that would include 24,400 square feet over four floors. The top floor would include a small gym and terrace area with an outdoor pool.
Each of the 10 units would be about 1,900 square feet and have three bedrooms. The project includes 18 off-street parking spaces behind the building.
The project needs a conditional-use permit because multifamily dwellings normally are limited to 40 feet in height in the area.
The commission staff found that the building’s additional height might block sunlight from reaching some parts of a neighboring building, which annoyed a group of its residents who spoke against the project.
Still, the staff recommended approving the permit, saying that the structure would have a minimal impact on the surrounding area even with the additional height.
Phyllis Landrieu told the commission that she “never planned to leave our home in spite of it being outdated and out of place on the avenue,” but that she saw the opportunity as a rare chance to “improve the majestic and historic appearance of St. Charles Avenue.”
Commission members voted 5-to-1 to recommend the permit. Commissioner Alexandra Mora voted no. Robert Steeg abstained.
The site is in Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s district.
The commission deferred action on several big apartment and commercial projects, including Parkway Apartments LLC, a proposed five-story complex at Washington Avenue and South Jeff Davis Parkway that would include 228 housing units and 15,434 square feet of ground-floor retail.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.