A plan backed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and District E City Councilman James Gray to rezone the former Holy Cross school site and allow a residential and commercial development gained Council approval May 8. Despite opposition from other parts of the city and in the Lower 9th Ward, the council passed the zoning change with a 5-1 vote among the six council members present. The sole opposition came from new At-Large Councilman Jason Williams. District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell missed the vote (she's in Aspen, Colorado).
At the newly inaugurated council's first meeting, dozens of people filled the council chambers inside New Orleans City Hall and picketed outside the front doors, carrying signs opposing the two proposed 60-foot-tall buildings, which would be 20 feet taller than what's allowed under current zoning law — but in keeping with the 60-foot height restriction for that site under the proposed new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
The initial proposal called for a 135-foot building — later reduced to a 75-foot structure — for a planned development from Perez APC. Opponents fear the development will tower above the historic neighborhood and raise property values and taxes on residences, among other concerns. Supporters said the Lower 9the Ward has not had significant redevelopment since Hurricane Katrina and that the Perez proposal would help spur a comeback in the neighborhood.