1031 Canal Street In the News

Praveen Kailas' plans for a 205-foot, 570,000 square foot tower to replace the old Woolworth's building at the corner of Canal and North Rampart have animated public discussion this summer.

The City Council will consider the City Planning Commission's (CPC) recommendation in favor of a 190-foot building in September or October. On August 23, the CPC rejected its professional planning staff's recommendation of a 120-foot building (60 feet on Iberville), the height limit recommended in the draft Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance currently awaiting public review and approval. FQC and most project opponents supported allowing 120 feet.

Mr. Kailas, a successful strip mall developer, purchased the property after Katrina for a very favorable price of about $29 per square foot after, he alleges, then-District C Councilmember Carter agreed to facilitate Council approval for a high-rise building. Mr. Carter has denied the allegation in writing, but the story colored the debate as the project has lurched through the city review process, garnering six rejections before the CPC's 5-3 vote. Mr. Kailas argues that he needs the height and mass (respectively, three times and four times that permitted by current zoning) to make his numbers work. He and his supporters, who include Canal Street business and property owners, some other adjacent property owners, and some French Quarter residents, claim that it will bring needed development to the long-vacant site and economic benefits to the city.

Opponents of the project include French Quarter Citizens, Vieux CarrE Property Owners, Residents and Associates, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Louisiana Landmarks Commission, Smart Growth Louisiana (a leader in the Master Plan fight), and some French Quarter residents and others. FQC and other opponents argue that the height and bulk fail to respect and protect the adjacent French Quarter and theater district. Opponents also point to Master Plan strictures against spot zoning (a concession affecting only one property) and land use changes made outside the Master Plan amendment process.

FQC fully supports appropriate development of the site, calling for a project consistent with the Master Plan, respectful of its surroundings, and considered as part of small area plan for our theater district, centered on the Saenger. We also believe there should be a traffic plan and a rational planning process considered by city agencies according to law.

Even if the Council approves the 190-foot height limit, Mr. Kailas still has to get design approval. Even many project proponents find the proposed design ugly and inappropriate. However, the design is largely dictated by the developer*s floor area requirement: 750,000 square feet (half the size of old Charity) on that lot requires a bulky building looming over N. Rampart and particularly Iberville Street, which will become even more a de facto service alley for the high-rises on Canal.

FQC continues to work for an appropriate project and consistency with the Master Plan, which the voters endorsed to end special deals – shouldn't the rules apply to all and not just a few? We also believe the project should respect its Canal Street neighbors, the North Rampart Street corridor, and provide an iconic building to mark a corner that will become even more important with the North Rampart street car and a theater district with the Saenger as its jewel. Protecting the French Quarter – New Orleans' feature attraction where we happen to live – is as ever FQC's major concern.