Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- It was a thorny vote for council members weighing historic preservation versus sorely needed economic development for lower canal street.
Businessman Praveen Kailas asked the council to approve construction of a 19-story, $70 million residential and retail tower at the corner of Canal and North Rampart - the site of the Old Woolworth building.
Supporters argued that the new high rise provides parking and shops adjacent to the city's burgeoning theatre district, and brings development to a run-down part of Canal Street.
Opponents argued that the proposed development is out of scale with other buildings on the edge of the French Quarter, and that the proposed height of 205 feet is three times what allowed by the site's current zoning.
“This project will generate 1,250 yearly jobs and 150 jobs for the life of the building. This project will also generate $200 million in economic development,” Kailas said.
“The goal is to move away from the dysfunctional planning process that New Orleans and Louisiana has historically been known for,” said William Borah of the group Smart Growth for Louisiana. “Move away from being the reputation as a banana republic.”
City Council Vice President Arnie Fielkow said, “I truly believe that those that are for and those that are against at the end of the day want New Orleans to be a better city and more vibrant city and a city with great economic development.”
Before approving the project, the City Council crafted a number of provisions, including limiting the height of the high rise to 70 feet on the Iberville Street side and 147 feet on the Canal Street side.
The vote was 5 to 2, with council members Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge Morrell voting against the high rise.