French Market targets parking lots for mixed-use

Posted on: September 30 2015

By Katherine Sayre, | The Times-Picayune

Surface parking lots are a dying breed in New Orleans, as real estate developers move from historic renovations into new construction in wealthier, more sought-after neighborhoods. 

Now, the French Market Corp. is targeting two of its parking lots on Elysian Fields Avenue for a mixed-use commercial and parking garage development in Faubourg Marigny.

Jon Smith, French Market executive director, said the vision is to increase total parking while adding retail focused on neighborhood services, such as a drugstore or a grocery store. 

"If we can take a surface, blacktop parking lot and turn it into an attractive, responsible development, that's going to be an improvement for the neighborhood," Smith said.

The French Market hopes to issue a "request for qualifications" in January to find out which companies might be interested in the property, he said. The next step would be a request for more detailed proposals from developers.

The same two-step public selection process was used in picking a Four Seasons developer for the World Trade Center building. The city is also using that method to find a developer for city-owned parking lots around the Piazza d'Italia

The parking lots in the French Market's project are located in the 400 and 500 blocks of Elysian Fields, on the French Quarter side, on either side of Decatur Street. Smith said the project will be driven by the neighborhood's needs. 

He said his office is working with the New Orleans Building Corp. and the city's Office of Place-Based Planning to formulate a more detailed vision for the lots. 

Right now, the two lots together will bring in about $1 million in annual revenues for the French Market, Smith said. One lot is dedicated to contract parking for neighborhood residents and business owners; the other lot is for hourly visitor parking. 

The French Market will get about $3.2 million this year from all of its parking lots, including a popular riverfront lot near the Moonwalk, which is not part of the redevelopment effort, he said.

Other projects around New Orleans eating up parking lots include a parking garage and Dave & Buster's at Poydras Street and Loyola Avenue and the $250 million South Market District near Plaza Tower, where a sea of lots is being transformed into new buildings for apartments, condos, retail and parking