Lower Garden District development promises to transform the riverfront

A new neighborhood is planned for the a whopping 27 acres of vacant land in the Lower Garden District. The developers’ plans include 1,100 new apartments, a boutique hotel, an “apartment hotel,” a grocery store, bars, restaurants, fitness center, offices, green space, a museum and an entertainment venue. The developers say they could break ground as soon as next year.?

“This development is an opportunity for a one-of-a-kind mixed-use site that will bring everything you want to see in a neighborhood and more,” land-use consultant Nicole Webre announced to the audience of a public meeting via Zoom last month. Webre is part of River District Neighborhood Investor LLC, the team selected in 2021 by the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center board to develop the site.?

According to the plans that the investors submitted when securing their bid for the development, roughly 40% of the new housing units will be affordable or “workforce” housing, priced below market rate. The River District? would completely remake what is currently a zone of empty lots just upriver from the Crescent City Connection — a rare undeveloped patch of land on even rarer high ground within the city.

La Vie En Rose Café finds a new home in the Lower Garden District

La Vie En Rose Café, a coffee shop that honors both innovation and Creole tradition, has moved to the Lower Garden District.?

The shop has moved from sharing space with Big Sexy Neon at 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. to a new location at 1420 Annunciation St. Its soft opening will be Monday (Feb. 14), in time for Valentine’s Day and the heart of the Carnival season. Owner Kirby Jones initially opened La Vie En Rose Café as a bike café pop-up at Martin’s Wine Cellar.

City Council approves Patron Saint wine shop in Lower Garden District

A once-industrial corner of the Lower Garden District that’s been steadily adding new bars and businesses is expanding its offerings again, as City Council approved plans last week for a new wine shop at 1152 Magazine St.?

The council voted on Thursday (Oct. 7) to permit the opening of Patron Saint, which will sell wine, groceries, books, and locally-made home goods. The unanimous vote came with eight provisos, requiring the store to get city approval on everything from lighting to the placement of its trash container. The 1,500-square-foot shop is in a former industrial warehouse near the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass. The council granted permission in 2018 for the building, owned by Rosa and Seth Dunlap, to be turned into an avant-garde theater space with a bar and restaurant.

Lengua Madre to offer a personal, contemporary take on Mexican cuisine at Thalia and Constance

Big changes are coming to the corner of Thalia and Constance Streets where Lengua Madre, a restaurant that offers a contemporary, personal approach to Mexican cuisine, will open at 1245 Constance St. on Wednesday (Aug. 4). It will be the first solo endeavor of chef Ana Castro, who previously worked as sous chef at Coquette on Magazine Street and as co-sous chef at Thalia, which operated in the same location as Lengua Madre. Castro was also the head of the kitchen at the brief pop-up Here Today in the spring.?

Castro was born in South Texas and raised in Mexico City by her paternal grandmother.

Hotel Saint Vincent ‘a place to slow down’ in the Lower Garden District

The stage was set on a balmy summer night when musician, vocalist and indie favorite St. Vincent captivated the audience in a courtyard that once saw saints of another sort. It was the opening night party for Hotel Saint Vincent in June, and it seemed like the A list was out in full force for one of the more posh hotel opening celebrations the city had seen in a long time.?

The party was also a revelation: It showcased the long and winding road of the building complex constructed as an orphanage just after the Civil War into its current incarnation as a 75-room hotel developed during another seismic cultural and economic shift, the COVID-19 pandemic.?

Hotel Saint Vincent is a project of MML Hospitality, helmed by Larry McGuire, Tom Moorman and Liz Lambert, whose expertise in developing hotels and restaurants — transforming, might be a better word — is seen in Austin, Texas, where the company is based. ?

The group worked with local developers Jayson Seidman and Zach Kupperman, who are part owners and developers. They are co-founders and developers of The Drifter in Mid-City, and Seidman is a co-owner and developer of the Columns, a late 19th-century Thomas Sully designed house turned hotel and bar that just went through its own re-do in 2020 and early 2021.

Pickleball, ‘the fastest growing sport you’ve never heard of,’ planned for vacant warehouse space in Lower Garden District

Pickleball may be coming to former warehouse in the Lower Garden District. The City Planning Commission last week voted to approve plans for the sports facility.?

Pickleball is a paddle sport that incorporates elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and was created as a family activity, according to USA Pickleball. NBC News has called it “the fastest growing sport you’ve never heard of.”?

The 21,000-square-foot former warehouse space on 460-462 Josephine Street and 2120 Rousseau Street, near the Walmart, will be remodeled to create five indoor pickleball courts and one outdoor court. Approximately 10,000 square feet would be added to include a second floor with a restaurant and bar. Plans show 24 off-street parking spaces.?

The former warehouse space is on track to become the first dedicated pickleball facility in New Orleans, according to developer Renee Melchiode.

Fried chicken, ice cream and wine: Here Today popup aims to satisfy a trilogy of cravings

Here Today, a weekend popup in the Lower Garden District had its soft opening March 5. The endeavor is run by Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette, and includes popular ice cream popup Lucy Boone Ice Cream, and newcomer Patron Saint Wine. Stoltzfus is spearheading the project that will be serving a menu that includes a fried chicken sandwich ($6), pickled vegetables ($8) and other rotating items. Chef Ana Castro, who heads the kitchen at Here Today, will be cultivating a menu that is sure to interest meat and veggie lovers, alike.?

Stoltzfus had the idea for the pop-up when he saw the space at the former Thalia location, 1245 Constance St., sitting empty. “It was just sitting here and I knew that it had a liquor license,” he said. “Because of restrictions, the space is too small for regular dine-in service, so I thought that a pop-up would be a perfect fit.

City plans safer bike paths in Central City and Lower Garden District

The Office of Neighborhood Engagement hosted a pre-construction meeting Thursday to inform Central City and Lower Garden District residents about bicycle infrastructure improvements coming to their neighborhoods. Construction on the project on the East Bank began in August 2020, and the Thursday meeting allowed residents to view the proposals for their area. The project will bring bike lanes and street redesigns to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from St. Charles Avenue to South Broad Street, Melpomene Street from St. Charles Avenue to Camp Street, Baronne Street from Calliope to Phillips Street, South Galvez Street from MLK to Erato Street, and South Broad Street from Fourth Street to Thalia Street.

Walk-up COVID-19 testing held this week in Broadmoor, Lower Garden District

The city’s free walk-up testing for COVID-19 will be held in Broadmoor and the Lower Garden District this week. Anyone, with or without symptoms, is eligible to receive a test. No ID or health insurance is required. Testing at the Andrew Wilson Elementary School at 3617 Gen. Pershing St. in Broadmoor takes place Monday (June 29) and Tuesday (June 30) from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — or whenever tests run out.

Lower Garden District neighbors question rezoning request for former corner store

A request to rezone a long-shuttered corner store on Josephine Street back into commercial use is raising questions among neighbors in the Lower Garden District, who say the lack of a specific tenant and the wide range of possible uses create the potential for trouble on a vulnerable residential block. Matt Hamdan of Metairie has owned the single-story brick building at 700 Josephine St. (at the intersection with Chippewa Street) since the early 1980s, he said at a recent meeting with neighbors. He building has been vacant since before Hurricane Katrina, when he closed the corner store there before, he said. During that time, it lost its commercial zoning, and the property is now classified for two-family residential.