Habana Outpost project back to drawing board

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 19, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 19 at 6:21 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- Opponents of the proposed Habana Outpost restaurant were ready to appeal the Vieux Carre Commission's approval of the concept. But the project is now on hold.

"In order to further the discussions, and further incorporate the input of the concerned neighbors, we are immediately withdrawing the current VCC application," John Williams, the project architect, told the City Council.

"It's very good news for us, because Sean Meenan has pulled his proposal from VCC," was the reaction of French Quarter Resident Diane Smith.

Neighbors were at first thrilled the long empty properties at Esplanade Avenue and North Rampart Street would be back in business, but then got concerned about the size of the project.

"The resulting congestion, parking issues, noise, would have really affected the lovely neighborhood that exists there," said Smith.

But now Meenan's architect says he will work with the neighbors on a new design.

"Though I appreciate the owner's vision, and I appreciate his ability to have big visions and ideas, the vision of a 300 year old neighborhood comes first and foremost, and has to be protected first and foremost," District C City Council Member Kristin Palmer said as opponents in the audience applauded.

So now the two sides are planning to sit down together, work out their differences, and come up with a new plan for this site. But they've been arguing with each other for a year and a half.

Can they find common ground?

"Very certain, very positive that we're going to work something out," said Williams.

"I think the good faith that he's demonstrated by withdrawing the project and agreeing to start over is a very good sign that we'll be able to figure out a plan and a design that is appropriate for the French Quarter," said Meg Lousteau, of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates Group.

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