Click to enlarge. The city has agreed to let Winn-Dixie cross the proposed Lafitte Greenway in one direction, from the mail lot into the satellite lot, despite objections from greenway supporters. Map courtesy of Google Maps.

By Ariella Cohen and Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writers |

Over the objections of Lafitte Greenway advocates, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has granted Winn-Dixie permission to cut a short roadway across the long-planned bike and pedestrian path so the grocery store can connect with a satellite parking lot.

Cars will be able to cross the greenway between North Carrollton Avenue and David Street, to reach a new Winn-Dixie lot behind Massey’s Outfitters. The grocer needs the off-site parking lot to meet city requirements.

Greenway supporters want as few breaks in the Treme-to-City-Park path as possible, which already will be interrupted by several major thoroughfares.

The connection was a non-negotiable issue for the project’s Covington-based developer, Stirling Properties. Nearby competitor, Rouses Supermarket, located directly across North Carrollton Avenue, has three entrances to its parking lot.

“If you come into the main entrance of the center and there is no available parking and you can’t get to the other parking lot, you create traffic in the neighborhood and lose shoppers,” said Townsend Underhill, vice-president of development for Stirling.  “We would not be able to do the project without the crossing.”

Click here for a sizeable pdf showing the plans for the site.

Winn-Dixie’s hardball stance apparently had an effect on the mayor. On Monday, Landrieu called the outgoing president of the Friends of Lafitte Corridor, Bart Everson.

“I was taken aback the mayor would call me,” Everson said. “For me, that was an indication that the mayor understood this was a hot-button issue and that he felt the stakes were high.”

“The community was heard,” Everson said. “We just didn’t get our way.”

Urban planners and open-space advocates frown on crossings such as this one because of the obvious dangers created when car traffic is introduced to a recreational area designated for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Connecting “two high-traffic parking lots on either side of the greenway [effectively] creates a new roadway over the greenway, introducing safety hazards for walkers, joggers and cyclists,” Rachel Heilgman, executive director for Transport for Nola.

The greenway spans three miles between Lakeview and Treme, crossing busy intersections at Carrollton Avenue, Jefferson Davis Parkway, Broad Street, Galvez Street and Claiborne Avenue. The Winn-Dixie right-of-way, however, is the first crossing to be created along the route. The move frightens advocates who say it could set a “dangerous precedent” for development along the trail.

“People feel really strongly that there should be no extra crossings, so it’s disappointing and disconcerting to see one being created,” Everson said. “We are extremely concerned.”

Greenway planners aren’t the only ones concerned. In an email to The Lens, City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who represents the area, emphasized that the crossing is a concession she does not hope to give again.

“This limited crossing is a negotiated exception to what will be a guiding principle that no new crossings be permitted,” Guidry said.

The greenway long has been discussed as an asset that will bring new development to the neighborhoods it passes through. In other cities, such as New York and even Covington, greenways have become popular tourist destinations as well as draws for bicycle commuters and recreational cyclists. That economic benefit can’t be ignored, Landrieu said in a statement issued to The Lens.

“The commercial redevelopment of the corner of South Carrollton and Bienville, including the old Bohn Ford site, is critical for the continued revitalization of that important Mid City corridor,” he said.