A proposal to erect a restaurant and aerial amusement ride on a platform in the Mississippi River adjacent to Jackson Square was blasted Wednesday by Vieux Carre Commission members, who said the project would invite an unwanted circuslike atmosphere to the historic neighborhood and possibly set a precedent for other similar ventures.
The commission’s jurisdiction does not extend to the river, but it intends to send a letter voicing its objections to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which have been asked to issue a permit for this project.
According to plans submitted to the Corps and DEQ, developer Olexandr Zonotopov wants to construct a 33-foot-long pier extending from the Moonwalk into the river. At the end of the pier would be a platform holding Vanilla Sky Café, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and a 150-foot helium balloon attraction.
Drawings presented to the Corps and DEQ show a large white balloon bearing the restaurant’s name suspended above a gondola that would be used to lift patrons into the air.
The plans do not provide further details about the restaurant or the ride, including how high into the air the balloon would rise or where along the river or elsewhere it might travel.
The project would require dumping about 300 cubic yards of rubble into the river to support pilings. Major construction work would be done from a barge.
The entire structure would extend about 130 feet into the river between the 600 and 900 blocks of Decatur Street.
The corps and DEQ are soliciting comments on the project before deciding whether to issue a permit to Zonotopov. The 30-day comment period began May 12.
Already, the Port of New Orleans has said it will not support the plan because it would interfere with maritime activity at several wharves and create a safety hazard. The proposed site is considered the “busiest and most congested section of any waterway in the United States,” port President Gary LaGrange said in a letter to the Corps and DEQ.
“In addition to the volume and diversity of maritime traffic in the area, the proposed project is located in one of the most hazardous bends in the river,” LaGrange said. “Maritime traffic frequently tracks near to the proposed project site both intentionally and inadvertently because of currents at and around that location.”
LaGrange said the developer had not notified the port of his plan nor sought a permit to construct the proposed structure, as required under state law.
Several French Quarter groups also have voiced opposition to the proposal.
“Though it’s in the river, it has a clear connection and reflection on the historic French Quarter,” said Gail Cavett, who sits on the board of French Quarter Citizens. “It’s absolutely inappropriate for the historic character of the French Quarter.”