New Orleans — Big Lots, the retailer known for selling overstock merchandise at reduced prices, will return to eastern New Orleans.
The City Council last week approved plans for the proposed 33,500-square-foot store to open at 6011 Bullard Ave., the former location of a Circuit City.
The council voted 5-0 to allow the store to open, with several City Planning Commission-suggested restrictions removed. Councilwomen Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Kristin Palmer were absent for the vote, having left the meeting early to attend previously scheduled engagements after they voted on matters related to their respective districts.
The lighter regulations, urged by District E Councilman James Gray, in whose district the store is planned, included fewer demands about the design of the building and landscaping. It also meant the parking lot can include 168 parking spaces. The planning commission had suggested 112 spots.
Big Lots District Manager Bob Borders told the council he had to “push pretty hard” with the corporate office to get approval for a store in the east.
While the planning commission set its recommendations in an effort to enforce existing regulations in place for big-box stores, the council relaxed some of those rules so as to not lose the store. It allowed similar variances for a Walmart that is planned for the area.
While the approved changes will violate some aspects of the Eastern New Orleans Renaissance Corridor Interim Zoning District, something residents supported to enforce design standards, there was no opposition to the changes Big Lots proposed since much of the east has remained devoid of many retails outlets.
Residents have welcomed most of the recent commercial investment following Hurricane Katrina.
Melinda Schwegmann, who was representing the owners of the building Big Lots will occupy, said that the time is right and the support exists for the store.
“We worked with the neighborhood organizations. They were ecstatic,” Schwegmann said. “One lady even said her name is Ms. Big Lots. She wants to be there the day we reopen.”