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

NEW ORLEANS - A New Orleans developer is staking claim to some of the last remaining vacant lots on and around Magazine Street. The plans are focused on building condos -- some of which will include commercial space.

However, the future of one grassy, tree-lined property is sparking controversy. 'It was dangerous. It wasn't the neighborhood you see now,' said Bruce Ramsey.

The Lower Garden District homeowner has lived in the area for 30 years and says it has come a long way. When Ramsey initially moved to the neighborhood relatives wanted him to sell. Like many of his neighbors Ramsey saw potential and it came.

'I noticed when that Walgreens was built. Then I said I have some kind of vision for this neighborhood. The rest is history, now look at it,' said Ramsey.

Real Estate experts say Magazine Street's renaissance began 15 to 20 years ago. Now retail spaces are hard to come by and new development even more rare, like a 7-unit luxury condo and restaurant development coming in near the intersection of Washington Avenue.

'You have sales tax, income tax and then you have property tax. A development like this right here is probably going to result in a quarter million dollars worth of taxes,' said Robert Hand.

The commercial real estate broker has seen the cost of Magazine Street properties skyrocket in the last five years and says it boils down to supply and demand.

'You could look at paying maybe $22 a square/foot per year for that space. Now they're asking about 30 to 40 percent more,' said Hand of commercial property leases.

A few blocks away, the owner of an empty lot complete with trees and grass has closed it off to neighbors about three months ago. Ruppert Kohlmaier tells Eyewitness News he was faced with lawsuit threats from people claiming to be injured walking through his property at Constance and Harmony Streets.

The property owner confirms he is now leasing it to Sarpy Development. Last week, the developer unveiled plans for a multi-story condo unit in the residential historic corridor. The same developer behind the luxury condos being erected on Magazine Street and Washington Avenue.

Neighbors have mixed reaction about the plans. 'It is his right to build on his property. It is just, do the right thing and make something in the ball park of flowing with this neighborhood,' said neighbor Ben Sherman.

'If it represents progress then I'm all for it. Is all I can say. We can hope for the best,' said Bruce Ramsey. As some of the last standing vacant lots in and around Magazine Street are transformed into new development, those who call the adjacent neighborhoods home are hoping what they helped create survives.

'Be mindful that the people here, we worked hard for this. It was scary to come home at night. We fought to get lights just like every other neighborhood,' said Ramsey. The development at Constance and Harmony Streets needs to be first approved by the Historic District Landmarks Commission before moving forward with other permitting requirements.

This story was developed in partnership with Uptown Messenger.com.

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