In 2016, the Louisiana Landmarks Society listed Bywater as one of New Orleans’ most endangered sites and a zoning change request currently under review will only expedite the demise of a neighborhood already threatened by tourism gentrification. Where do we draw the line?
At issue is a family home on Louisa. Over 65 years ago, it was a bakery. There are hundreds of similar properties throughout the city, including Bywater, which means this change would set a dangerous precedent for our neighborhood and for others.
In case after case, proponents of such rezoning assert that a property, formerly commercial, is entitled to be so again. But historically, such properties housed retail and service businesses that usually shuttered by dinnertime and whose customers were neighbors. Today the go-to business model is a destination restaurant or bar serving alcohol that depends heavily on tourists to survive and Bywater is already amply served by such fare.
Within the small three-block area adjacent to this address alone, fourteen restaurants or bars are currently operating or permitted. And there is abundant vacant commercially zoned inventory available throughout the neighborhood. Do we really need more? Industry statistics indicate a high failure rate among restaurants but once this home is rezoned, it’s likely changed forever.
We bemoan the over-commercialization of The French Quarter and as Tremé and Marigny became increasingly threatened, we created agencies and policies to protect quality of life for the remaining residents. Yet commercial creep remains a growing cancer in our neighborhoods. The result is an exodus of the very folk who make them unique, vibrant and real.
It’s time to protect the housing stock we have left. Where do we draw the line if not here at 805 Louisa St., in Bywater?