NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans City Council has approved plans for a new shopping center.
The Magnolia Marketplace will be a two-level mall where most of the stores will face an elevated, open-air parking deck.
At the urging of Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the site, the council removed many of the restrictions on the project's design recommended by the City Planning Commission but opposed by the developers, Tara Hernandez and Stirling Properties.
The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/14hCMGW ) the center is to be built on the river side of Claiborne, between Washington Avenue and Toledano Street. The stores will face Claiborne but will be well back from the street, with several fast-food restaurants and other buildings, including a church, between Claiborne and the shopping center.
Developers hope to begin construction by June, with opening scheduled for late 2014.
Designs presented recently by the developers show six stores -- T.J. Maxx, Shoe Carnival, Ulta beauty products, PetSmart, Michaels and Ross Dress for Less -- on the second level of the new center. The ground level is to have two unidentified stores, including a 42,500-square-foot space for an anchor tenant.
Developers, said, however, that the planned national retailers might pull out of the project if the city did not approve all of the parking and signage that the chains require. Townsend Underhill, a vice president of Stirling Properties, said the retailers have agreed to pay "top-dollar rents" to be in the new center and it is essential to provide the parking and signage they want.
The developers proposed a total of 484 parking spaces, but the planning commission approved only 314 spaces, as called for by the city's regulations for big-box stores and special rules for Claiborne Avenue. An aide to Cantrell said the final plans will provide 482 spaces.
The developers also wanted to erect a 37-foot-high pylon sign at the corner of Claiborne and Toledano that would include panels listing all of the stores. The commission approved only a 12-foot-high sign, as provided by zoning regulations. The developers said the taller sign is needed to attract the attention of motorists, since the stores themselves will not be clearly visible from the street.
The Magnolia Marketplace project is strongly backed by the Landrieu administration. Aimee Quirk, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's top adviser on economic development, said it will "bring much-needed retail to the Claiborne corridor and create hundreds of jobs."
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com