Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding Victory’s Retail Proposal for Mid-City
Who is “Victory”?
Victory Real Estate Investments, LLC is a private, closely held, commercial real estate company based in Columbus, GA. Victory’s developments feature nationally recognized tenants and its portfolio of assets is located throughout the southeastern United State, extending from Ohio to Florida and from Louisiana to the Atlantic.
The list of Louisiana properties on Victory’s website includes the Sav-A-Center on N. Carrollton in Mid-City; Belle Promenade (now closed) on Lapalco and Barataria in Marrero; the Airline Shopping Center (Airline Drive), and Westgate Shopping Center and Wiltshire Plaza (Veterans Blvd.) in Metairie; and the Kenner Marketplace (Williams Blvd.) in Kenner.
Where is Victory proposing to build a retail shopping center?
Phase I of Victory’s proposal covers the area bounded by Jefferson Davis; Bienville; Carrollton; and Toulouse, excluding the Mid-City Center and the Gambit Weekly building.
Phase II covers Carrollton to N. Solomon and Bienville to St. Louis.
The development would cover 20+ city blocks.
What occupies the area now?
Phase I is occupied by Lindy Boggs Medical Center (now closed) and a number of industrial businesses & related offices.
The open businesses in Phase I include:
500 N. Cortez – Dave Streiffer Cargo and Cruise Ship supply
3520 Toulouse – Bayou Bicycles bicycles sales, rental and repairs Re-opening soon in former A.J. Millwrights space
3540 Toulouse -Action Flooring retail flooring and cabinetry
3610 Toulouse – Studio 3 Float building, set building, props, sculpture
3622 Toulouse – Pieri Tile retail sales, manufacturing and warehouse of marble and tile
3601 Conti – Diversified Specialty Printing screen printing services
3607 Conti GES Exposition Services convention exposition services
3733 Conti – Office Machine Rental convention furniture
Buildings that are currently being renovated for re-occupancy by new businesses:
3530 Toulouse formerly Bayou Bicycles
3536 Toulouse formerly Paddison Construction
Businesses that are not planning to return:
540 N. Cortez – GA Lotz restaurant supply moved to Harahan under Option to Victory
501 N. Cortez – Plush Appeal Mardi gras supply moved to 2812 Toulouse in Mid-City own building and land, undecided on plans.
The properties whose intentions are unknown:
401 North Cortez the former Times-Picayune sorting warehouse, which occupies the city block between Conti & St. Louis, between North Cortez & North Scott. Land owned by Railroad.
401 N. Jefferson Davis Parkway The Stone Center Land owned by Railroad.
Phase II is occupied by Loubat Foodservice Equipment Supplies, and by two developments which have not re-opened post-Katrina: the Bohn Ford dealership and the strip mall which formerly housed Harry’s Ace Hardware, The Rainbow Shop, China Imperial restaurant, Subway, Smoothie King and Alessi Cleaners.
What type of development is Victory proposing?
So far we have only seen concept drawings from Victory – not a formal proposal. “Plan A,” presented first by Victory, had a smaller retail footprint and somewhat more green space than its latest drawing, “Plan B”.
Plan B includes a “residential wrap” on Bienville, Toulouse and Jefferson Davis with several big box stores facing Conti from Jefferson Davis to N. Scott. Victory mentioned project tenants for these stores like Target (190K); Dick’s Sporting Goods (80K); Best Buy (?K); and Bed, Bath & Beyond (30K). Several junior anchors (each ranging from 27K – 50K sq.ft.) would face St. Louis St. The development also includes over 2500+ parking spaces with approximately 900 of these in a surface lot and the balance in a closed garage.
Phase II on the other side of N. Carrollton would contain a large Home Depot plus parking. (No drawings have been presented yet for Phase II.)
As best we understand, the potential tenant list is also in the conceptual stage: these retailers named have apparently not committed themselves to occupying this development.
Does Mid-City Neighborhood Organization [MCNO] support Victory’s proposal?
To date, Victory has shown two conceptual sketches, and is seeking additional information from before creating a third concept sketch. Before MCNO can make any judgment of support, a detailed proposal must be submitted. When a detailed proposal is submitted for public review, MCNO will evaluate the proposal, solicit further input from residents, and then make a decision.
Until then, MCNO will continue to work with cooperatively with Victory to help them understand and meet the guidelines for this area as described in The Mid-City Plan.
What does the Mid-City Plan propose for this area?
The plan encourages commercial development which preserves the historic and urban character of Mid-City. Design focus should be on walkability, street-side storefronts, and neighborhood-friendly businesses (i.e. small bookstores, early childhood development centers, cleaners, tailor, fitness studio, restaurants) including mixed-use projects with both residential and retail components. Scale should be consistent with the surrounding neighborhood and infrastructure and the urban street grid should be preserved.
The Mid-City Plan especially endorses transit-oriented development for this site to encourage use of the streetcar line and the planned bike and walking path ( “Lafitte Corridor Greenway” which bisects this property) rather than focusing solely on automobile access. In the warehouses adjacent to the greenway, the plan envisions art studios and exhibit space as well as landscaped plazas and benches.
The streetcar line on N. Carrollton also brings tourists and conventioneers to the neighborhood. To capitalize on this connection, the plan recommends the development of music venues, art galleries, an independent movie theatre, recreation-based businesses (bicycle and canoe rentals) and historic tours.
The “why” behind these recommendations has to do with a number of elements, some previously noted:
- The site is bisected by the Lafitte Corridor Greenway. $400,000 has already been raised for this project which has broad support in the community and promises to improve quality-of-life, increase public health, safety and property values, and boost tourism;
- The site is adjacent to the streetcar line;
- The site is bounded by the Mid-City National Historic District, acclaimed for architecture representing styles from the mid-1800’s through the mid-1900’s;
- The adjacent blocks across Bienville and Toulouse are mainly residential (single- and double-family structures) and small offices;
- Other sites, like Tulane Avenue between Carrollton and Jefferson Davis, are much better suited to the large-scale development proposed by Victory.
In summary, The Mid-City Plan calls for mixed-use (residential and commercial development) of this site with retail scaled mainly to serve Mid-City, surrounding neighborhoods and tourists arriving by streetcar but not to draw shoppers from other parishes or other cities (i.e. the scale of Riverbend or Magazine St. rather than Lakeside or Elmwood). Site design should address and complement the N. Carrollton streetcar line and the Lafitte Corridor Greenway and should respect the architecture of the adjacent historic district.
Is the type of development recommended by The Mid-City Plan economically viable?
Yes. The high price of housing in post-Katrina New Orleans tells us there will be strong demand for a heavily residential mixed-use development (i.e. small- to medium-scale retail with living spaces above and adjacent) in the area sought by Victory. And, over the long-term, housing in this area would have the advantage of proximity to convenient shopping, to City Park, to the Bayou, to the streetcar and to the beauty of the Lafitte Corridor Greenway, making it a highly desirable address and keeping property values high.
Furthermore, over their lifetime, smaller-scaled retail spaces are more likely to remain continuously occupied (i.e. paying rent) than spaces built for out-of-scale “big box stores”. Only a few very large anchors can profitably use 150,000 or more square feet of space per store. When the anchor leaves ( as in Lake Forest Mall, Belle Promenade, the Explanade, and New Orleans Centre), who can afford to move in but another national mega-chain? However, smaller-scale retail spaces are suitable for a wide variety of stores – tenants both national and local – during their life span.
For a number of years, forward-looking retailers have recognized that people are beginning to return to the cities where they can experience a sense of place not available in the suburbs. To take advantage of this trend, these retailers are developing new urban business models which include smaller store sizes scaled to fit within the city’s street grid. Meanwhile many cities (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Burlington, Vermont; are a few examples.) are insisting on “smart growth”, an approach which preserves the unique flavor and history of the location in the design and scale of development. And economic success has followed.
We need revenue and jobs now. Can New Orleans, and particularly Mid-City, wait for the “right” kind of development?
MCNO is committed to securing the type of smart growth described in The Mid-City Plan because we believe that, in the long-term, it will pay off handsomely by improving quality of life, increasing tax revenues and property values, and highlighting the unique culture and beauty of the residential neighborhoods of New Orleans.
However we recognize that in the short-term, revenue and jobs are critically needed. Consequently, MCNO will do all it can to help Victory Real Estate produce a development which will carry out this vision. However, if Victory is unable or unwilling to do so, MCNO is ready to promote Mid-City to other developers who CAN embrace and implement The Mid-City Plan.
Below is a quote from the Smart Growth America website which seems appropriate to our situation:
“While cities pay consultants thousands of dollars to come up with the Next Big Thing (usually with a huge government subsidy attached), some creative communities have realized that their best assets are what drew them to the place originally. Historic architecture, diverse neighborhoods, and scenic vistas are just a few of the assets that can be built upon for successful and long-term economic revitalization.”
( http://smartgrowthamerica.org/preservation.html )
Is The Mid-City Plan completely opposed to large commercial developments and national chains?
Absolutely not. The Mid-City Plan strongly encourages economic development but insists that the scale of each development be appropriate to its location. The plan advocates a revitalization of the Tulane Avenue commercial corridor with emphasis on the area between S. Carrollton and S. Jefferson Davis where a large-scale retail development would fit well.
Tulane Ave is 6 lanes wide, has 18 blocks currently zoned commercial, access from I-10, a turning lane from Carrollton, and was underutilized even before Katrina. In contrast, Conti St, where Victory is currently planning to build, is 2 lanes wide, not zoned for commercial development and part of a historic district.
Where does large-scale retail have the best chance of success? On a two-lane street next to a bike path or on a 6-lane commercial corridor readily accessible from the Interstate? The Mid-City Plan supports large-scale commercial developments like Victory’s on Tulane Avenue where they are appropriate.
How can I get a copy of The Mid-City Plan?
Go to item # 4 on
https://mcno.org/plan/ to download.
How can I learn more about the Lafitte Corridor Greenway?
Go to http://www.folc-nola.org .
How can I learn more about “smart growth” for urban areas?
Googling “smart growth” will provide you with a long list. We recommend you begin with the following sites:
Smart Growth America: http://smartgrowthamerica.org/
Smart Growth Louisiana: http://www.smartgrowthla.org/
Stay Local: http://staylocal.org/