Trader Joe’s at Freret and Napoleon?

NEW ORLEANS — There have been rumors of a Trader Joe’s coming to the corner of Freret and Napoleon for the last few months. Now details of the potential development are beginning to emerge.

During a May 28 meeting, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a grocery store over 10,000 square feet that sells packaged alcoholic beverages at the corner of Freret and Napoleon, which is home to the shuttered Our Lady of Lourdes school. The approval comes under the condition that the Historic District Landmarks Commission approves the demolition of the existing school building, which was designed by architect Philip P. Cazale and completed in 1957.  

The HDLC will meet on June 5 to make a decision.

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Developer Zach Kupperman, known for the Drifter Hotel and Hotel Saint Vincent, has partnered with David Fuselier on the project. Kupperman and land-use consultant Michael Sherman spoke at the City Planning Commission meeting but have yet to discuss plans with the media.

According to public documents, the plan would be to demolish the existing school building on the site — but not the adjacent church building — to make way for the construction of a 13,500-square-foot grocery store. The proposed project has 81 parking spaces.

The purchase price of the property has not been disclosed.

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Documents filed with the City Planning Commission include a floor plan that shows a one-story structure with a main entranceway at the corner of Freret Street and Jena Street. There would be cashier stations and a checkout area along the Jena Street side of the structure. On the Napoleon Avenue side of the building, there would be a “back of the house” area. The loading zone would be parallel to the LaSalle Street side of the building.

The store’s design is inspired by the Mission Revival-style church and the Mediterranean Revival-style rectory currently on the site.

Neither Kupperman nor Trader Joe’s have confirmed the tenant for the building, but the plans for the project closely match the California-based company’s specifications. The retailer, known for its tasty and affordable private label products, has nearly 600 locations nationwide but none in Orleans Parish. There is an always-crowded store in Metairie and rumors of another planned for Mid-City, which could open later this year.

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The developers have begun meeting with the neighborhood for months now. Some neighbors are delighted to see something finally happen on the site of the former school, which closed in 2004. 

“Having something there will definitely be better than nothing,” said one nearby resident, who lives across Jena Street from the proposed development. “It’s been abandoned for years, and there’s talk about something happening but it never seems to come together.”

Others are unhappy with the scale of the project.

“There is zero necessity for another grocery or liquor store [in the neighborhood],” wrote real estate agent Nick B. Kallman in a public comment sent to the City Planning Commission. “Within 1.5 to 2 miles, there are the following major stores: Rouses (Freret), Rouses (Tchoupitoulas), Winn Dixie (Tchoupitoulas), Whole Foods (Magazine), and Fresh Market (St. Charles). This list does not include liquor stores or smaller specialty grocers. There needs to be emphasis that the Rouses on Freret is only 700 feet away.”

Proponent and opponents will be paying close attention to the June 5 meeting.

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