NEW ORLEANS —
Off of the I-10 service road in the West Lake Forest neighborhood of New Orleans East sits the site where the old Frenchman’s Wharf Apartments used to be, out of commission since Hurricane Katrina.
“This property has sat for now going on 15 years and nothing has happened,” said District E council member Cyndi Nguyen.
But now Nguyen says she is exploring an option with White Star Commercial to build a resort-style hotel around the lake.
“I really believe that this can be a great hit for that piece of property,” said Nguyen. “It’s 42-acres and out of 42-acres, 20 acres is the lake.”
The property is zoned for single family homes and would require a change in the zoning laws to build a hotel. Some neighbors want to see homes, not a hotel.
“We want development. We want developers to come say ‘this a great place to do business’ but we want the right thing, not a 200 room hotel in the middle of our neighborhood,” said president of West Lake Forest Neighborhood Association Jemeel Shaheer.
Lot owner Joseph Bruno says there is no way he could get the return on investment with single family homes “because you’d have to have hundreds of single family properties and it just doesn’t fit unless you filled in the lake,” said Bruno.
Instead -- the hotel plan calls for buildings to be built on the existing empty slabs already on the property.
“What we have in mind is something that takes advantage of the green space, the views” said Bruno. “I think there is an opportunity there because of the lake.”
Project leaders say they hear the concerns of neighbors about a hotel not fitting in the neighborhood but believe this plan can work with compromise.
“You know there is the -- ‘this is what you got’ and the ‘this is what you might have’, would it be perfect? Never but compare the two, weigh the two and be apart of the process,” said Bruno.
Neighbors are worried but remain hopeful a fair deal can be met.
“I think that my quality of life, my children’s quality of life, my grandchildren’s quality of life, my neighbors of quality of life would change,” said Shaheer. “It’s a challenge but nothing we can’t overcome.”
As for the next phase -- Bruno says the developer is going to come up with some renderings to show what exactly this hotel will look like. They will then take that back to the residents to get more input.