A Marigny supermarket left vacant and blighted for nearly nine years took a step toward reopening Tuesday. The City Planning Commission gave the go-ahead to Marketfare St. Claude LLC to re-establish the former Robert Fresh Market store at St. Claude and Elysian Fields avenues.
The final decision is up to the City Council. The site is in Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey’s district.
The grocery store did not reopen after it was badly damaged following Hurricane Katrina. Until last year, it was the subject of a protracted legal dispute between the Robert chain and the store’s landlord, the Schwegmann family.
The store originally opened as a Schwegmann Bros. Giant Supermarket in 1946. It was the first store in what became the dominant chain in local grocery shopping, comprising 18 stores that employed 5,000 workers. After the Schwegmann chain foundered in the 1990s, the store became a Robert Fresh Market.
The store is expected to reopen in about a year after Robert meets some demolition and construction requirements associated with the building’s recent listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Under the plan approved by the Planning Commission, Robert intends to demolish some buildings at the rear of the main store, including a structure that extends to North Rampart Street.
The main building is to be renovated and expanded on the Elysian Fields side and the North Rampart Street side to accommodate 24,000 square feet of grocery store space on the ground floor. A partial second floor will be added to house electrical and mechanical equipment.
The plan also calls for an 1,800-square-foot outdoor seating area, two parking lots with 68 parking spaces and extensive exterior renovation work to add windows, canopies and other elements.
The project also will include 9,300 square feet of detached retail space, enough for three tenants, facing North Rampart Street. The tenants of those spaces have not been chosen.
The site operated as a Robert Fresh Market from 1999 until 2005. It has been closed since Katrina as Robert and the Schwegmann family argued in court about who should pay for the building’s repair. The court battle ended last spring with the Schwegmanns agreeing to hand over ownership of the building and insurance proceeds related to its damage to Robert.
“We’re finished with that. We’re ready to move forward,” said Marc Robert, the grocery chain’s president.
Another former Schwegmann store that later became part of the Robert chain but was closed for years after Katrina, at North Broad Street and Bienville Avenue, reopened in February as a Whole Foods Market plus other uses, including Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, the central office for FirstLine Schools, offices for Broad Community Connections, community space and Liberty’s Kitchen.