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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- You may have noticed the prominent signs along Esplanade Avenue protesting the 'Habana Outpost.' The controversy swirls around a proposal to build a Cuban restaurant at the corner of North Rampart and Esplanade.

'I've heard that they're building a restaurant right up the street -- here on the corner,' said Marigny resident Melissa Stein.

A handful of mostly historic balconies on Esplanade Avenue are decorated with much more then lights this holiday season.

Signs are clearly displayed protesting plans to turn an old gas station at 1040 Esplanade Ave. into a new restaurant called 'Habana Outpost.'

'I am all for the revitalization of the area, for picking up closed buildings and turning them into good businesses. But we need places to park,' said Stein.

Architectural designs by John C. Williams Architects, LLC posted on saveourneighborhood.net show plans for a solar panel roof system, glass garage roll-up doors, a roof deck, a canopy covered outdoor dining area, picnic tables and other upgrades.

'With a capacity of 400 people, it would be very difficult for the people who pay to live in this area to park and get to their homes,' said Stein.

The Save Our Neighborhood campaign says that the proposed project will cause parking problems, excessive noise and additional dangers to pedestrians.

'I think these neighborhoods have always had neighborhood bars and restaurants,' said Marigny homeowner Lane Burrell.

Despite his neighbors' signs of protest, Burrell welcomes the proposed project.

'We get a lot of foot traffic in this neighborhood anyway, that place is empty, they use it for parking sometimes. I'm glad to see something being done with it,' said Burrell.

Those thoughts were echoed by New Orleans resident Christian Taylor: 'I don't think there is too much Cuban food in New Orleans. I don't think there is, but it would be nice to see one.'

As developer Sean Meenan tries to bring the New York-born restaurant to New Orleans, for now it is wait and see. Eyewitness News could not reach Meenan or the local architecture firm for comment on Wednesday.

French Quarter Citizens is against the commercial development. In a written statement, the group's president Brian Wiggins says quote:

'The developers would love to paint this as (yet again) French Quarter residents standing in the way of progress. Unfortunately, in this case, nothing could be further from the truth.

'French Quarter Citizens is not against the development of this corner. We favor the redevelopment of North Rampart Street as a commercial corridor so long as it is complies with applicable city laws and zoning regulations. We have for many years supported the non-profit North Rampart Main Street, an organization which seeks to return commercial development to North Rampart.

'What the developers have proposed so far does not appear to conform to rules which with which all businesses - restaurants, bars, and shops - must comply. Our organization simply cannot support what appears to me to be a giant bar at the intersection of three residential neighborhoods.'

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