Fishman Haygood Assists Developers with Magnolia Marketplace Deal

The Magnolia Marketplace project moved closer to completion as the New Orleans City Council gave approval to the new shopping center in Central City.

The shopping mall will be built on Claiborne Avenue between Washington Avenue and Toledano Street. The estimated $24 million project is set to begin construction in June 2013. The development group for the project is led by Stirling Properties, which is represented by Fishman Haygood.

The retail development project will include name brand stores such as Ross Dress for Less, T.J. Maxx, Michaels, PetSmart, ULTA Beauty, and Raising Cane’s. The stores plan to open in Spring 2015.

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Magnolia Marketplace Shopping Center on South Claiborne Wins City Council Approval

The Times-Picayune · Bruce Eggler

Plans for a new shopping center on South Claiborne Avenue won unanimous approval Thursday from the New Orleans City Council. The Magnolia Marketplace will be a two-level mall where most of the stores will face an elevated, open-air parking deck.

At the urging of Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the site, the council removed many of the restrictions on the project’s design recommended by the City Planning Commission but opposed by the developers, Tara Hernandez and Stirling Properties.

The center is to be built on the river side of Claiborne, between Washington Avenue and Toledano Street. The stores will face Claiborne but will be well back from the street, with several fast-food restaurants and other buildings, including a church, between Claiborne and the shopping center.

Developers hope to begin construction by June, with opening scheduled for late 2014.

Designs presented recently by the developers show six stores — T.J. Maxx, Shoe Carnival, Ulta beauty products, PetSmart, Michaels and Ross Dress for Less — on the second level of the new center. The ground level is to have two unidentified stores, including a 42,500-square-foot space for an anchor tenant.

Developers, said, however, that the planned national retailers might pull out of the project if the city did not approve all of the parking and signage that the chains require. Townsend Underhill, a vice president of Stirling Properties, said the retailers have agreed to pay “top-dollar rents” to be in the new center and it is essential to provide the parking and signage they want.

The developers proposed a total of 484 parking spaces, but the planning commission approved only 314 spaces, as called for by the city’s regulations for big-box stores and special rules for Claiborne Avenue. An aide to Cantrell said the final plans will provide 482 spaces.

The developers also wanted to erect a 37-foot-high pylon sign at the corner of Claiborne and Toledano that would include panels listing all of the stores. The commission approved only a 12-foot-high sign, as provided by zoning regulations. The developers said the taller sign is needed to attract the attention of motorists, since the stores themselves will not be clearly visible from the street.

The changes recommended by Cantrell include allowing the 37-foot-high sign. She also approved some changes the developers wanted on building materials and setbacks.

The Magnolia Marketplace project is strongly backed by the Landrieu administration. Aimee Quirk, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s top adviser on economic development, said it will “bring much-needed retail to the Claiborne corridor and create hundreds of jobs.”

Part of the site formerly was part of the C.J. Peete public housing complex, originally known as the Magnolia complex — hence the name of the proposed development, the Magnolia Marketplace.

In recent years the aging Peete complex was mostly demolished and replaced with 460 housing units in 119 new two-family and multiple-family buildings. The developers of the new complex, known as Harmony Oaks, have also endorsed the shopping center.

Besides the main retail building and parking garage, the overall project also calls for replacing a Subway restaurant at Toledano and South Claiborne with a different fast-food outlet, a Raising Cane’s chicken-fingers restaurant. There is a new Taco Bell at Washington and Claiborne, and between those two fast-food outlets there is a McDonald’s facing Claiborne.

Behind the McDonald’s is the First Mount Calvary Baptist Church building, and the only opposition to the project at the planning commission’s meeting in December came from representatives of the church. Much of their opposition stemmed from fear that the developers intend to close the short, dead-end portion of Sixth Street that provides access to the church from Claiborne. Planners said that closure no longer is under consideration.

However, the Rev. Ulysses Landry also expressed fear that the church would be so overshadowed by the elevated parking deck behind it that it would be practically invisible and would “lose its identity.” Cantrell said Thursday that that the developers have reached an agreement with the church that resolves the congregation’s concerns.

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