Plans for a Moxy Hotel in the 700 block of St. Charles Avenue won the New Orleans City Council’s approval Thursday, overturning a proposed requirement by the Central Business District panel of the Historic District Landmarks Commission that the upper floors be set farther back from the street.
The approval came over the objections of neighborhood residents who said the project — which has been trimmed back since it initially was proposed — was out of character with a historic neighborhood and essentially would lead to the demolition of a historic building.
But Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the site, said city rules do not establish specific requirements on such building setbacks, and the landmarks commission should not be the board to try to impose them.
The council approved an appeal of the commission’s ruling by a 6-0 vote, with council President Jason Williams absent.
Plans now call for a five-story, 45,000-square-foot hotel on the site. The original proposal for an eight-story structure drew opposition from residents and Cantrell because of its height.
While the landmarks commission agreed to the current plan, with the condition that the upper floors be set back 20 feet from the street, the developers asked the council to reduce that to 9 feet. They said the smaller setback was the only way to fit enough rooms on the site to make the project work financially.
Several neighbors objected, however, saying the design was not in keeping with the historic character of the neighborhood and would encourage others to seek their own exemptions for nearby projects.
While eventually voting to approve the project, Councilwoman Stacy Head argued that it would destroy a historic building and undermine the city regulations on building heights in the Central Business District by sending the message that the council would approve proposals to turn one-story structures into mid-rises.
The council, she said, should not bend to developers who say they need exemptions from the rules to make their projects viable.
“Our job isn’t to make a bad business deal work for a particular developer,” Head said.
In approving the developers’ request, Cantrell said she wanted to see more work on the design.
“The neighbors as well as the owners are still kind of unhappy with the design. It sounds like there’s a commitment from the owners and the community to get a design that both parties can live with,” she said.
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