The City Planning Commission on Tuesday voted to oppose a plan to demolish several mid-19th-century buildings and replace them with a 20-story hotel tower at Canal and Tchoupitoulas streets. The vote was 8-0.
The proposal now goes to the City Council.
The project, which calls for a building more than triple the allowed height for the area, was opposed at the meeting by a representative of Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
However, it appears to have the support of Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the site.
It would take five votes on the seven-member council to override a possible mayoral veto.
Developers first brought the project to the Planning Commission more than a year ago, but it faced sharp opposition from the preservation community and neighbors because it called for both the demolition of historic buildings and a waiver of the area’s 70-foot height limit.
However, the proposal still wasn’t going down well for residents and preservationists who showed up at Tuesday’s meeting.
Liz Boulware, who lives on Common Street across from the proposed development, said the meetings resulted in little change from the original plan, except that the façades of three of the demolished buildings would be retained.
The city planning staff also panned the project, saying the building would be “fundamentally too tall and massive” for the site and would “dwarf” adjacent historic structures in the Central Business District and Vieux Carre.
As proposed, the staff said, the development would be “more impactful” on the streetscape than other tall buildings in the area — including Canal Place and the Marriott and Sheraton hotels — because the proposed hotel would be parallel to Canal Street instead of perpendicular, giving it a more imposing aspect.
The staff also said granting a height waiver to allow the building would undermine the city’s master plan, which is supposed to establish predictable zoning rules.
Landrieu aide Eric Granderson said the administration feels the hotel’s modern design and the demolitions that would be required to build it would not be an appropriate use of the site, which he called an “important hub” for the city.
“It deserves something that reflects (New Orleans’) heritage, that culture,” Granderson said. “We do not believe this project does that.”
The project calls for the demolition of all six historic buildings on the site, with the exception of the façades of 105, 109 and 111 Tchoupitoulas St.
The proposal, presented by the development team of Wischermann Partners Inc. and Jayshree Hospitality, calls for a Residence Inn and a SpringHill Suites hotel, one on top of the other and totaling 373 rooms. Both are Marriott brands.
The property is owned by Kishore “Mike” Motwani, and the ground floors of the buildings there now are occupied by liquor stores and souvenir shops.
Motwani, who owns a number of similar stores, is a controversial figure among French Quarter residents, preservationists and city officials, in part because of the types of businesses he owns and also because he often has flouted the restrictions imposed on development in historic areas.
Architects for the developers said the project needs to be as tall as proposed so it can be profitable. They said restrictions on building hotels in the French Quarter necessitated the Canal Street location and that other buildings — including the one now occupied by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel — are as broad facing Canal Street as the project they have proposed.