Developer plans upscale retail center in north Kenner _lowres


A Kenner developer is planning an 80,000-square-foot upscale shopping center at the northwest corner of Joe Yenni and Williams boulevards, with the first phase likely anchored by a Planet Fitness gym.

Jody Grass, who has other retail developments underway on Magazine Street and Metairie Road, said the $12 million first phase will take about a year to build out and will be anchored by a 25,000-square-foot building that Planet Fitness has signed a letter of intent to lease.

It will be flanked by two 5,000-square-foot buildings and two 6,000-square-foot buildings; no other tenants have been announced.

The development, which is on 8 acres of land purchased by Unfolded Property three weeks ago from Loyola University for $3 million, will be well landscaped, with buildings connected by sidewalks, Grass said.

“What we’re trying to do is something a little bit nicer — a shopping center for the subdivisions in north Kenner,” he said, comparing it aesthetically to the development along Harrison Avenue in Lakeview.

Grass said the second phase will follow for the remaining 3 acres. Although he has been contacted by a developer interested in putting a hotel at the site, Grass said he is keeping his options open and won’t do anything detrimental to the overall goal of a walkable retail development.

Mayor Mike Yenni said the vacant property has long been a source of frustration for Kenner, and the city issued a news release praising the development.

“I’m excited whenever we add a new business to the city, but the development of this piece of land means even more,” Yenni said. “For too many decades this tract of land has been vacant, and I’m elated by the fact that we are able to put it into commerce.”

In the release, the Yenni administration linked the project to the city’s efforts to upgrade and beautify its major corridors, largely through the Kenner 2030 plan, and to promote the redevelopment of Laketown into an entertainment district.

In August, the city unveiled a $1 million beautification project for the neutral ground near the entrance to Laketown. The project includes a vertical sign, LED lighting, landscaping and underwater irrigation from Vintage Drive to the Pontchartrain Center.

The Kenner 2030 Plan, which aims to do $28 million in corridor improvements beginning later this year, was funded by $42 million in sales tax revenue bonds approved by the council and is the centerpiece of Yenni’s bid to combat population loss and make Kenner a more desirable place to live for young professionals and families.

The city also has put an emphasis on Rivertown to the south and Laketown to the north.

The land along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain recently was approved by the state for commercial development. The city solicited proposals for that site from developers in January with a response deadline of early May; it envisions a boardwalk-style development of condominiums, shops and offices.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.