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1999-09-11
New Orleans, LA. Albertson's Get Mayoral Assist

We reported on August 22, 1999 that the Albertson's grocery chain was trying to win city approval in New Orleans to build a 66,000 s.f. store in a National Historic Register District off St. Charles Avenue. On September 2 the project got a friendly assist from Hizzoner, the Mayor. Marc Morial, the Mayor of New Orleans, told the City Council that a big box store in the four block section of the neighborhood will "move New Orleans forward." "I am for preservation of buildings," the Mayor noted, "but I am also for preservation of lives. I am for preservation of families." Residents opposed to the plan were trying to get it scaled down to an appropriate urban size, and to get Albertson's to relocate 10 historic buildings that are in the footprint of the building. The Times Picayune reported that "strong politicking" helped win the project -- but some money didn't hurt either. Albertson's agreed to give the Preservation Resource Center up to $150,000 in matching funds to pay for the relocation of 10 houses from the site. The PRC has only until February 1st to move the houses, so that construction can begin in March or April. Winning over the PRC with money was described in the press as a "Houdini Act", but the PRC President testified in favor of the project. Some local "preservation activists" remained unmoved by Albertson's offer. Attorney Bill Borah, and a representative from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said the 66,000 s.f. building, 219 car surface parking lot, and demolition of 10 homes "will irreparably harm a blighted historic district and prevent its economic and social revival." "I fear that this low-density, suburban development, with its emphasis on the automobile, will act as a catalyst to draw more big box retailers to this area," Borah told Sprawl-Busters. "The suburban Godzilla has come to St. Charles Avenue, adn the consequences could be disasterous for this old city."

What you can do: The developer in this case is St. Charles Ventures, which is a partnership that includes two local Baptist Churches. Albertson's presented their project as if it was an economic development project that would employ 150 people. They promised to hire as many people as possible from the Central City. Unfortunately, the addition of more grocery stores to any trade area does not make people any hungrier. Spending on food is affected by increased population and per capita income growth -- not on the number of retail stores. In all liklihood, many of the "new" jobs at Albertson's will be transferred from smaller, existing grocery stores in the urban area. For further information on this project, contact Bill Borah at 504-566-0504










 
 
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