HANO/ITEX Bywater proposal gets planned development status

After lengthy public hearings at the City Planning Commission and City Council, the Housing Authority of New Orleans in partnership with private sector developer ITEX Corp. will receive a requested upzoning on the now vacant city block that once housed St. Mary’s Orphanage in Bywater. Louisiana Landmarks Society was founded in part by citizens outraged by the demolition of a Creole plantation home on the site in the 1949.

The parcel subsequently held HANO housing, but has been vacant for years. It was slated for redevelopment with 50-60 units before HANO and ITEX changed their proposal to triple that density. Neighbors cried foul at the bait-and-switch. The Architectural Review Committee of the Historic District Landmarks Commission found the proposal “too massive,” but was relegated to an advisory only role due to the public land ownership. Public agencies are exempt from direct HDLC oversight.

The expanded project calls for 60% of the units to be affordable to persons earning less than the area median income and 40% market-rate. Neighbors First for Bywater pleaded for an all-affordable development of fewer units, better suited to their neighborhood of mostly one-story homes. The compromise brokered by Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer will allow for more density than the present zoning, but require greater community input on the development’s design. The City Council will have additional leverage to approve or deny the final plans. Both supporters and opponents indicated their willingness to proceed with the planned development and related discussions that will determine the future of this Bywater block.