Blighted grocery site steps closer to Robert Fresh Market redevelopment


Posted on March 18, 2014 at 10:25 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 18 at 10:40 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- A legal battle lasting almost a decade put the brakes on the redevelopment of the old Schwegmann grocery store in the Marigny after Hurricane Katrina. Now plans to open a Robert Fresh Market at Elysian Fields Avenue and St. Claude Avenue are finally moving forward.

"We have the Rouses on Franklin, which is six or seven miles. Then we've got the Rouses downtown that opened recently," said Rosie Lacy with the Faubourg St. Roch Improvement Association.

Residents have had to trek far since the storm to make groceries in the Marigny-Bywater-St. Roch and St. Claude communities.

Circle food store recently reopened its doors and now the former Schwegmann's grocery site in the Marigny is making a comeback.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, 10. It's very exciting," said Marigny resident Joel Ross.

Community members got an update Tuesday night from developers of Robert Fresh Market.

The redevelopment project was put on hold pending a legal battle that lasted about eight years and ending last spring. Now energy is being refocused on breathing new life into the historic property.

"It goes back to the '40s as the first self-service grocery store in the city of New Orleans," Marc Robert said while addressing the crowd.

Plans for the 35,000 square foot facility will include parking, bike racks and a separate structure called "a new out parcel." Robert said it will be leased to a handful of commercial businesses.

Neighbors voiced concerns at the neighborhood meeting about parking, designers adhering to height restrictions and ensuring everyone can afford to shop at the store once it opens its doors.

"We're having that dialogue a lot, what's going to happen with the St. Roch Market, making sure whatever goes in there is affordable," said Lacy.

As Robert Fresh Market seeks final approval for its redevelopment plans, the consensus among those living nearby is that it's about time.

"It's been a long-blighted corner, a very important corner for New Orleans, and it's great to see something coming back there," said Ross.

The Robert Fresh Market redevelopment plan is headed to the Historic District Landmarks Commission for approval on Thursday.

Developers hope to start construction on the project in about six months.