Kenner Planning Commission recommends approval of plan for apartment complex at old movie theater site _lowres


Kenner’s Planning Commission has recommended that the City Council approve a proposed apartment complex of three- and four-story buildings on a former movie theater property near the Esplanade Mall despite the objections of an adjacent neighborhood.

Commission Chairman Robert Pastor said the plan to erect the Gateway at Esplanade complex was endorsed at a meeting Wednesday night by a vote of 6-1.

The City Council now will decide whether the proposal to build 265 one-, two- and three-bedroom units in three buildings — as well as 413 parking spaces — should move forward.

Pastor said he voted against endorsing the plans drawn up by New York-based Giraffe Real Estate Corp. and Baton Rouge developer Lacy Howe. But Planning Commission members Rafael Saddy, Tom Blum, Mark Johnson, Michael Cenac, Iggy Villanueva and Rita Bezou all favored it.

Prior to the vote, residents of the Cannes Brulee subdivision expressed concern that the development would create privacy, noise, drainage and access issues for them. The Gateway at Esplanade would back up against the east side of Cannes Brulee.

The residents also said there are no assurances the Gateway at Esplanade will remain the upscale community its developers say it will be.

The apartments are projected to rent for between $1,100 and $2,000 a month. The developers said they will be cheaper than the luxury units in New Orleans’ Central Business District while offering similar amenities.

But a flier circulated among households in Cannes Brulee warned, “There is NO guarantee they won’t eventually become subsidized,” meaning available to low-income residents.

Pastor said he particularly understood Cannes Brulee residents’ privacy concerns. Decks for some of the Gateway at Esplanade units would overlook the neighboring subdivision’s homes.

“That’s something that needs to be addressed — period,” Pastor said.

Villanueva said he supported the apartment project because it would be preferable to letting the site of the former Hollywood Theater continue sitting vacant. The old theater has fallen prey to vandals and graffiti, and the Gateway at Esplanade would banish that kind of element, he said.

“There’s no income, no revenue coming from an abandoned movie theater,” Villanueva said. “This is going to put some people in the area and give some assistance to retail outlets, restaurants and other such businesses in the city along the way.”