Proposed St. Claude Avenue Hotel Hits Snags With Neighbors, Commission Approval
Project to be placed on City Planning Commission agenda Feb. 6
NEW ORLEANS – Approval for a hotel on St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater was deferred last week by the architectural review committee of the city’s Historic District Landmarks Commission in order to look at landscaping issues and further review plans for an additional building to be built on the lot.
It was the third time city commissions have deferred the project in order to review design details, according to the project architect.
Plans have been drawn and properties have been acquired for The Sun Yard, a 35-room hotel, restaurant and event space in the 3000 block of St. Claude Avenue, five blocks away from Franklin Avenue. It's plans would convert four existing cottage-type houses fronting St. Claude Avenue into a hotel and restaurant.
Jason Richards, senior associate and architect with the firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, presented plans to the HDLC's Architectural Review Committee at its meeting on Jan. 16.
Plans include building from four to five additional buildings to the large parcel of land, keeping green space and adding a pool. The deferment was issued in order for the committee to review the suitability of one of the buildings.
The property is bounded by St. Claude Avenue, Montegut Street, North Rampart Street and Clouet Street and encompasses a large lot referred to as the Truck Yard, which hosted the annual Chaz Fest music festival.
The restaurant is proposed for the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Montegut Street.
Neighbors spoke out against plans for the hotel at the Jan. 16 meeting and have been vocal about their opposition, citing the possibility of loud noise from events and tourists disrupting the quiet neighborhood. Rising property taxes and privacy issues were also concerns, noting a concern about possible room balconies overlooking neighbors’ yards.
“Right now, it’s very quiet; I can think I’m in the countryside. (But not) with weddings every weekend, parties every other day, and increased traffic,” said resident Miguel Maldonado.
A Change.org petition opposing the Sun Yard development currently has more than 2,900 signatures.
“I can’t understand how a concierge on St. Claude Avenue isn’t going to change the nature of the neighborhood,” said neighbor Eve Abrams, at the meeting.
“We heard their concern, as we are refining the design. There will definitely not be balconies,” said project co-owner Guiliano Pignataro in an interview with Biz New Orleans.
Project co-owner Liz Solms said in an interview that she and her husband Pignataro plan to run a neighborhood-friendly hotel and restaurant that will showcase local artists and provide jobs.
The couple own a historic preservation business in Philadelphia and said they became interested in the Bywater space after a deal with a hotel in the Lower Garden District fell through, and the large parcel of land with the four cottages went up for sale.
The couple said they purchased a home on the back side of the property facing Rampart Street and add that they plan to use it as their home. The couple also said they purchased an empty lot across the street at the corner of St. Claude and Feliciana Street to serve as parking for the Sun Yard.
Pignataro said that every standing structure on the property for the hotel will be rehabbed, and plans include adding camelbacks to existing homes to expand space. The only plans are to tear down sheds.
“Nothing will be torn down at all,” Pignataro said. “Interiors will be modified; we will have to cut openings in existing walls to create a corridor through the space, but no buildings are being torn down nor any space will be substantially altered.”
At the commission meeting, Abrams said changing the buildings was a concern for her as a neighbor. “What we’re left with is exterior, but interiors are irreparably changed and altered, and can never be what they once were.”
Solms said this will be their first foray into commercial business, although she said she has consulted with small hotels in the Caribbean.
“Most homes in these neighborhoods turn into Air Bnb’s, and we find that to be fairly problematic in neighborhoods,” Solms said. “We hope this will be a great place for people to come and stay.”
Neighbors, however, remain frustrated.
“As a resident, do I have any rights, or did I just sell my rights to people in Philadelphia?” asked Maldonado.
Approvals before plans can move forward include:
– A conditional zoning-use permit to operate a hotel over 10,000 square feet in the historic Marigny/Tremé/Bywater Commercial District.
– A parking requirement, which states there must be one parking space for every 1.5 rooms. The couple says they are purchasing an empty lot at the corner of St. Claude Avenue and Feliciana Street to serve as a parking lot.
– Approval from the New Orleans City Council
Next up: the project is on the New Orleans City Planning Commission's Feb. 6 agenda to approve the conditional zoning. It will be held at 1:30 p.m.at City Hall, 1300 Perdido St. in the Homeland Security Conference Room on the eighth floor.
-By Jenny Peterson, Associate News Editor, Biz New Orleans