Apartments in The ARK, and an FMIA election update_lowres


In May, Julian Mutter announced his property at 511 Marigny St. (known as The ARK) would eventually be renovated into an apartment building with retail space on its bottom floor (currently, artists rent the top floor for studio space). Now the move is underway. Several artists at the Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association’s (FMIA) monthly meeting Sept. 19 announced they received notices to vacate the studio by Nov. 11.

Plans for the $15 million project include 48 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and 4,000 square feet of commercial space at the corner of Decatur and Marigny streets, with off-street parking for all units. “We’re looking to break ground on it by the end of the year,” Mutter — whose family also owns Doerr Furniture — told Gambit. “We anticipate approximately between 11 months and 13 months of construction time. Our goal is to have the building in service by December 2012.”

In April, Mutter requested a zoning change for the property, from commercial use to residential and commercial mixed-uses. (Mutter said the city’s approval of the zoning and ordinance changes arrived last week.) As for the artists in the building, “they’ve been displaced,” Mutter said.

The New Orleans Community Bike Project (Plan B), which operates inside The ARK’s first floor, will also have to move. “I want to keep them in my sphere,” said Mutter, an avid bicyclist and board member of the Metro Bike Coalition. “I’m looking to work with them to find them another location, probably on St. Claude Avenue,” though he said he doesn’t rule out bringing Plan B back into the building. “But they can’t really be displaced for an entire year,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to be in the commercial space. I do think the corner itself will be something like a café-bookstore, but something certainly (like) a neighborhood business. It might be a restaurant. I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far.”

At the Sept. 19 FMIA meeting, members held elections for four board members. The board’s nominating committee selected four, and all four won: Gretchen Bomboy, who already was serving on the board as its corresponding secretary; Alex Vialou, who was appointed to a vacant board seat and worked on the FMIA’s blight projects; and Marshall Gries and Miles Swanson.

Nominations from the floor, which were submitted by meeting attendees at the FMIA’s August meeting, included Mardi Gras Zone owner Benny Naghi and Lost Love Lounge owner Nick Scramuzza, who were outspoken critics of the FMIA administration and its president Chris Costello. Neither were voted to the board.

Earlier this year, both business owners and dozens other Marigny residents responded to anonymous (and FMIA-voiced) complaints about proper permits, noise and other "problems" at their respective businesses, including the Iron Rail Book Collective at The ARK. Tension escalated in May when Costello was asked to leave the board following reports of his assaulting now-former board treasurer Eva Campos.