by Kevin Allman
Steam shovels provided the backdrop for this morning’s groundbreaking for the new Winn-Dixie shopping complex at S. Carrollton and St. Louis streets in Mid-City. The lot — site of a former Bohn car dealership — has sat fallow since Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry and representatives of the supermarket chain and developers Stirling Properties were all on hand for the ceremony. “Though the lot was not technically blighted,” Guidry told the crowd, “it was a blight to our souls.”
“We’re not building the city the way it was; we’re building the city the way we want it to be,” Landrieu said, adding that the shopping complex is expected to provide 365 permanent jobs in the supermarket and satellite businesses, which will include Office Depot, Neighborhood Pet Market by Jefferson Feed, Felipe’s Taqueria, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Pei Wei Asian Diner and the frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry, “which I am really pumped up about,” Landrieu added. (The mayor can be spotted at the Magazine Avenue location fairly regularly.)
Guidry referred to the complex as “a premier shopping as well as recreational area,” making reference to the Lafitte Corridor, the 3.1- mile greenway that will eventually run through Mid-City to the French Quarter. In December, the city agreed to let the supermarket build a car crossing on St. Louis Street into the parking lot, a move vigorously opposed by the group Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) but defended by the Landrieu administration. Before the ceremonial shovel-turning, Landrieu made oblique reference to the contretemps, thanking FOLC “for taking what could have been a very big conflict” and helping find a solution — “while it may not be perfect,” he added.
Bart Everson, FOLC's former president, was not at the ceremony, but said Landrieu had personally promised him that cycling experts would be consulted on the crossing’s construction in order to minimize the chance of danger. Asked at the event if the St. Louis Street side of the complex would be set off with a fence, Guidry said yes. “That’s news to me,” Everson said.
The market and its attendant businesses are scheduled to open in early 2013. According to Stirling Properties, 80 percent of the retail space has already been leased.