News > Press > Lafitte Greenway spurring development plans in Mid-City

Original Article >

Lafitte Greenway spurring development plans in Mid-City

28 Feb 2015

As the $9 million Lafitte Greenway project nears completion, details are emerging about a handful of new developments being proposed near the 3-mile bicycle and pedestrian path, which stretches from the edge of the French Quarter to Mid-City.

A new strip mall anchored by a CVS pharmacy is slated for the site of the former Home Depot store on North Carrollton Avenue, according to city records. Plans call for demolishing the old building and constructing a new 13,600-square-foot pharmacy.

The land is owned by Rouse Land Co. LLC, the real estate arm of Rouses Supermarkets, the Louisiana grocery chain, records show. The company, which purchased the property for almost $7.3 million in 2013, did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Elsewhere, a former laundry warehouse that’s been closed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is in the early stages of becoming a new startup brewery, restaurant and office space.

The project, at 2606 St. Louis St., is an effort by GCE Green Development LLC, a partnership between local developer Ramsey Green and the real estate firm Green Coast Enterprises. The group held an informational meeting to discuss the 32,000-square-foot site with community residents this week.

“We’ve looked at this building for a while, and we think it would really add value to the neighborhood and provide a really high-demand resource for the area,” Green said. “It’s been sitting there a long time.”

The brewery, called Urban South, would have a tap room and a large outdoor terrace area overlooking the greenway. Ramsey said the operator of the restaurant is still being decided.

“We’re really interested in seeing the greenway succeed, and we think there’s a lot of potential there,” he said. “We’d like to put some investment in it, but we’ve got to have the community’s support to do that.”

Nearby, plans also are underway for a $100 million mixed-use development complex situated on more than 8 acres of land behind the Rouses Supermarket on North Carrollton Avenue. The 374,000-square-foot proposal calls for building a fitness center that offers squash courts and climbing facilities, as well as a 120-room boutique hotel and 300 units of housing. An office building is being considered for a later phase of development.

Ryan Donegan, who founded Better + Boulder LLC, is a former professional squash player who hopes the new center will introduce the sport to a wider audience. Places to play squash locally are limited, he said, and having a facility that’s capable of hosting exhibition matches would shine a spotlight on the game and, hopefully, attract more interest, particularly among young players.

Donegan said the center would offer “programming that’s a little bit different from what you would normally see in a traditional fitness center.” He initially considered two other sites for building the venture but decided the redevelopment of the Lafitte Greenway can work in his favor.

His group purchased the land in a sealed-bid process last summer. The fitness center was the driver, and adding the hotel to the mix would help in hosting squash tournaments or corporate events, Donegan said.

“It’s a little bit unusual that we are actually going vertical with a piece of our own land development deal,” he said about the process of starting with a fitness center and working from there. “Essentially, we’re trying to fit in the rest.”

The climbing area is expected to take up about 27,000 square feet, making it one of the larger facilities of its kind in the country.

For squash enthusiasts, the center would offer two exhibition courts, eight singles courts and one doubles court. It also would have fitness machines.

“We think we’ll be able to draw people from just about everywhere,” Donegan said. Membership at the gym is expected to cost about $90 a month, he said.

Donegan, 32, said he played squash at Brother Martin High School and later was recruited to play at Dartmouth College. He was a four-time All-America honoree and played professionally for three years after graduating from college in 2005, he said.

“I’m lucky that I was able to have that opportunity,” he said. “This is really just about being able to give that back to everybody else, just trying to grow the game and make it more public.”

Now, Donegan is waiting for the City Council to finalize the city™s new comprehensive zoning ordinance, which could happen in late March.

Depending on when that happens, Donegan is optimistic that the project may break ground this year, with an anticipated 18- to 24-month construction schedule.

“It’s an exciting time in Mid-City, and it has been for some time, with the greenway getting close to being finished,” he said. “We’re really just trying to take the right approach to creating a development or village that fits into the surrounding area.”

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.