By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |
Well-heeled Uptowners turned out for Monday’s meeting of the Neighborhood Conservation District Committee, to speak both for and against a plan by liquor tycoon Jeffery Goldring to demolish a 1928 Emile Weil-designed triplex on St. Charles Avenue and replace it with a mausoleum-sized single-family residence.
The demolition bid was narrowly denied and almost certainly will be appealed to the City Council.
The property also includes a Thomas Sully-designed carriage house, but plans were offered to relocate it.
A measure of political high stakes: Mayoral aide Mike Sherman attended as did Pearl Dupart, the former mayoral appointee on the committee who fulfilled her reputation as a reliable vote in favor of demolition. Dupart resigned in August but can continue to vote until she has been replaced by mayoral pick Rita LeGrand, another pro-demolition vote who is anathema to preservationists.
Many attendees rose to speak in favor of the demolition, including Paul Fine, a Lake Vista resident and employee of Republic Beverages, a Goldring family business.
Fine said he thought the new building would increase the city’s tax base.
Pro-demolition speakers lauded Goldring’s selection of Ken Tate as architect for the proposed new construction.
According to a packet provided by Goldring, Tate, who is based in Mississippi, has designed “more than 70 houses, including an 11,000 square foot Norman-inspired compound in Mississippi” as well as a “13,000 square foot French-Colonial inspired compound in New Orleans.”
Another speaker said Goldring’s proposal would address “density issues” by decreasing housing units, since zoning would allow the triplex to be returned to commerce with no more than two units.
Immediate neighbors of the property, at 5428 St. Charles, dominated opposition to Goldring’s plan. Barry Grodsky, whose home abuts the Goldring property, called St. Charles Avenue the “most important street in the city, if not the country,” and spoke to the commission of the “awesome responsibility you all have.”
Helene Henderson, another nearby resident questioned the sincerity of a “good-neighbor agreement” which was frequently referenced by proponents of the demolition but was not included in the information packet.
Michelle Kimball representing the Preservation Resource Center called Emile Weil an important architect in the history of the city.
The final vote was 6-5 in favor of demolition, short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval.
An appeal to the City Council is considered a certainty. The building stands in Council Member Susan Guidry’s district.