NEW ORLEANS -- A highly controversial development at the former site of Holy Cross School in the Lower 9th Ward is moving forward.
It hinged on a zoning change and approval from the City Council, and Thursday it got the green light. Protesters and supporters packed the New Orleans City Council Chambers hoping to sway the outcome.
For the three newest members of the council, their first meeting and first major vote were pressure filled. Each made statements on their positions.
In a 5-1 vote, the development proposed by Perez APC was approved. James Gray, the councilman representing the district that includes the 9th Ward, said he appreciated the community involvement from both the opposition and supporters, but he cautioned opponents who refused to compromise.
"I told you time and time again, if you refuse to negotiate, you lose your opportunity to have input," said Gray.
Those opponents were upset over plans to have, among other things, two 60-foot high buildings. Some residents said such structures were not compatible with the existing residential structures, many of which do not exceed 25 feet in height.
The developer did scale back the design of the "towers" from 75 feet to 60 feet after outcry from opponents. The approved zoning change shifted the neighborhood from low-density residential to high-density commercial use.
Kim Ford, head of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, said that decision disregards the desire of residents.
"Even after all the things this community has gone through since Hurricane Katrina, we continue to have leadership in our city that could care less," said Ford.
The zoning change paves the way for the 13.2 acre site to be part residential and part commercial.
The developer said the future site will feature residential units, green space, a coffee shop and even a culinary school.
Angela O'Byrne, president of Perez APC, said it will stimulate a place that is in grave need of it.
"We see this project as an engine and a catalyst for economic development in that neighborhood and many neighborhoods in New Orleans," said O'Byrne.
The project did leave the neighborhood divided. While the opposition may have been more vocal, local residents in support of the development wanted their message to be heard.
They said the project will breathe new life into a site that's been sitting stagnant since Hurricane Katrina.
Patricia Jones said the alternative to the project was to keep the status quo.
"At the end of the day, you ask yourself look do we want a future for our kids that's brighter than what we have? This development provides that," said Jones.