Design plans for a Hampton Inn on Elysian Fields Avenue in Faubourg Marigny.
After more than two years of planning and meetings with neighborhood residents, "Hampton Inn Marigny" is a step closer to opening at Elysian Fields Avenue and Decatur Street, among the first major hotel chains set to break ground in the neighborhood.
Final plans for the four-story hotel at 501 Elysian Fields Ave. have reeled for months as developers, architects and residents have tried to come to a compromise over design plans, not the construction of a hotel itself, which neighborhood groups hope will skim off the area’s proliferation of short-term rentals and remedy a property that’s remained untouched for several years.
But Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association president Allen Johnson says the “suburban” designs aren’t consistent with the area.
“We were told we would have ‘a building the neighborhood would be proud of,’” Johnson told the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) June 12. “We did not get that.”
The CPC ultimately approved a conditional use to permit the hotel. But after 10 Architectural Review Committee meetings, several neighborhood meetings, and the developers’ failure to honor a “promise” to hire a design consultant to work with neighbors, “everyone got worn down,” Johnson said.
“We felt bulldozed by this, and it’s hard to get people out here,” said Johnson, pointing to the small turnout at City Hall. “We’re for the development — we’re just against the building.”
Initial plans were revealed in 2016, when residents got a first glimpse at the red-and-yellow stucco designs; new designs also call for full-sized brick walls on the first floor, as well as balconies on the street-facing front side of the building.
Edward Suffern, an attorney representing the developers, said residents’ objections to designs aren’t objections to the building’s use, and residents still have an opportunity to voice concerns and offer feedback when the plans go before the Historic District Landmarks Commission (and the New Orleans City Council) for final approval.
“We can all develop individual opinions on design,” he said. “The hotel use easily complies with the neighborhood.”
City Planning Commissioner Robert Steeg agreed, adding that the “subtleties and additional concerns are provinces of HDLC, not us.”
“It seems they’re the proper place to air design concerns,” he said.
Despite objections, the hotel has had a relatively lower-key welcome and amendment process among residents compared to debates in 2012 over developer Sean Cummings’ plans for the same lot, which he aimed to turn into luxury apartments.
Cummings sold the lot to Hampton Inn developer Amit Patel of 501 EFA Hotels for $3.5 million in 2016 after Cummings abandoned plans for the Elisio Lofts following the New Orleans City Council's denial of a height variance that would give him permission to build up to 74 feet.
Plans for Hampton Inn Marigny call for 133 rooms, an on-site parking lot, a pool and a neighborhood dry cleaner on the first floor. There won’t be a restaurant or bar, except for a breakfast area for hotel guests.
Patel, who has developed several hotels in the New Orleans area, will partially demolish the building on the lot (which street artist Banksy used for his National Guard “Looters” mural) to make way for the hotel; the other half of the lot is currently an empty concrete slab. Parking at the hotel will be accessed from Decatur and Marigny streets, and the parking lot will be enclosed at the rear of the lot, not viewed from the front-facing Elysian Fields entrance.
In a letter to the CPC, Johnson explained that Patel reneged on a promise to hire a design consultant and instead hired a local attorney to defend initial design plans. “We believe that this simply [has] become a war of attrition,” Johnson wrote, adding that the attorney, Justin Schmidt, had asked the Architectural Review Committee to deny the plans to push them through to the CPC and the City Council, rather than endure any additional ARC hearings.
“It was our hope that this project would set a positive precedent for the development of Elysian Fields,” he wrote. “We feel that this site is too important to our neighborhood to not be treated better.”