NEW ORLEANS - It's been stirring up controversy in the French Quarter for over a year.
And neighbors say the fight over the future of a proposed Cuban restaurant at Esplanade Avenue and North Rampart Street is far from over.
Neighbors like Eddie Bonin say they would like to see development at this long abandoned gas station in the French Quarter. But they say the proposed Habana Outpost doesn't fit the neighborhood.
“It's just so big. It's going to really impact the Quarter,” said Bonin, French Quarter resident and board member of the Louisiana Landmark Society.
“The noise and the traffic from that would be a big impact,” said neighbor Renee Fransen.
The latest plans show two-story outdoor seating, with the development stretching across several lots.
Neighbors believe combining those lots violates building regulations for the French Quarter. But the Vieux Carre Commission gave the proposal the green light earlier this month.
The developer has said that he's committed to responsible development that abides by all rules and regulations.
“I have worked with the commission for a long time and have worked hard to get it to the place that it is now,” said Sean Meenan, after the September 4th meeting in which the VCC approved the overall design and concept.
Still, the process is far from over. The VCC’s architectural committee will continue reviewing details like signage and landscaping this week. The commission estimates that it will take several meetings to finish reviewing those details.
If the architectural committee approves construction details, they will go up for a vote before the full commission. If the commission gives those details the green light, the city council will take up the vote.
In the meantime, neighbors say they'll continue their fight.
“It's simply too big and it's out of character,” said Meg Lousteau, executive director of Vieux Carre Property Owners and Associates.
“We don't need a bourbon street here on Esplanade and Rampart,” said Bonin.
And while the restaurant’s supporters say the area already includes neighborhood bars, restaurants, and plenty of foot traffic, opponents say this particular development is just too big, and they're examining all options to get it scaled back.
VCPORA and neighbors have filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing the developer to take down pre-existing billboards on the site.
The Vieux Carre Commission's architectural committee will review construction details at a scheduled meeting on Tuesday.