NFB General Meeting Minutes – January 3, 2018
Meeting started at 7:11. There was pizza (thanks Stephen Haedicke!), and a great turnout. Almost ran out of chairs!
Mark Gonzalez told the group about an art show at the New Orleans Art Center (3330 St Claude Ave.) called “The Deadly Ambiguity of Guns”, opening January 13th and running through February 4th. Artists are submitting work exploring the theme, which focuses on the multiplicity of factors in the gun debate. The public is invited to vote on their favorite pieces at the opening party January 13th, 6PM.
Julie then introduced Joseph A. Jaeger Jr., CEO of The MCC Group, along with Peter Amondt and Jeff Feilden. Their real estate and development company bought the Holy Angels Congregation Center and Convent on St. Claude, and also plans to develop the former Naval Support Activity site on Poland Avenue.
Mr. Jaeger said the nuns from Holy Angels have moved across the lake. The original plan for the site was to make the buildings into apartments, but after walking around the site one day he felt it was not a good fit after all, and thinks an assisted living / elderly care facility would be a better fit. “The property deserves more than just plain apartments”, he said. They do not want to lease to a random company, and want to maintain involvement in the project.
The MCC Group signed a 99-year lease for the former Naval Support Activity site (NSA) around a year ago. Since then they have been going back and forth with the City and Port as they try and make a plan. The group wants to use the buildings for “workforce housing” and neighborhood friendly commercial. They have spoken with grocery stores and Hubig’s pies, among others, regarding the potential for the commercial spaces. The City would retain a portion of one of the buildings for their use, probably for records storage, though other purposes have been discussed.
Mr. Jaeger told the group that some time after the lease was signed (and significant effort to draft plans for the site made) the City emailed an amendment for them to sign that would return parts of the property to the City, presumably for use by the Port. As their lease is a legally binding document, they opted not to sign the amendment. Neither the Port or the City will tell them why they want the amendment, or what their plan is, so the group is unable to move forward with making any plans for the site. If a use is planned by the City or Port that would not be appropriate alongside residential units they cannot proceed. One such use (the elephant in the room) is the potential cruise ship terminal, of which very little is still known (scratch “about”). It’s safe to assume the Port wants to use part of the property for delivery trucks and parking for that project, which would not be good for the development. The group plans to meet with HUD representatives re funding in Dallas later this month, and it seems they would disapprove as well. Mr Jaeger said he knows the Port wants to put the cruise ship terminal there, but wonders if they have the money to do it. Brian Luckett suggested we keep an eye on the State Budget, which will be released later this month, to see if funds are allocated for it. In prior budgets, it has been listed as “very low priority.” Was it Brian who said this?
Mr. Jaeger said the process on the NSA project has been very slow. It took four and a half years just to get the lease! And now with the City and the Port not saying what they plan on doing, nothing can get done. Letters go unanswered. He said he knows the City or Port wants to access the dock via the leased property, which is problematic, but they want to cooperate. The 18 month due diligence period comes to an end in May, and the group hopes they can make some progress by then, but with the changes in City administration they anticipate it will be difficult. In the past they worked with Capital Projects, Cedric Grant, and recently Ryan Bernie, whose term is coming to an end very soon. State officials have not been helpful either. Mr. Jaeger pointed out that little is known about the cruise ship terminal plan, so it’s hard to know how to proceed. Would it be a “home port” or “visiting port”? What kind of boats would be there? There is a big difference between a riverboat and a cruise ship. He said the Viking River Cruise company may be looking for a dock. Larger cruise ships would mean thousands of people, cars, and lots of trucks. Mr. Jaeger shows genuine concern for any impact any of these developments would have on the neighborhood, and says they fully plan on continuing to keep us up to date and involved.
In fact he said, “We will not make a deal without some representation from the neighborhood sitting at the table.”
A request was made for the improvements to the security at the NSA site to protect it from vandalism, squatters, and related issues nearby residents have been concerned about. The group said they are aware of the problems and trying. They were thanked for their time.
Meeting ended at 8:09PM.
Respectfully submitted by Tyler Harwood, co-secretary