Artist rendering of The Pearl condominium, which developers proposed to build on the Old Basin Canal on the lakefront in New Orleans (Image courtesy of Oceana USA LLC)

A new super sexy condo for the West End is desired outside the flood levees and might contribute to flooding. Want to live there?

A proposal to build new condominiums in West End on the New Orleans lakefront that has raised flooding concerns among area businesses and residents will be the subject of a public permit hearing Thursday. The hearing will be at 6 p.m. at New Orleans Lakefront Airport by the state Department of Natural Resources. The Pearl condominiums, proposed by Oceana USA LLC, originally was going to be a 15-story facility that would include a parking garage and condos on South Roadway Street, adjacent to the Municipal Yacht Harbor and on a segment of the New Basin Canal just north of the Sewerage & Water Board’s Pump Station 12. The project would be outside the lakefront hurricane levee. In May, the developers submitted a dramatically smaller condo proposal that included only six floors of condos, parking and amenity space, but DNR officials said the revision couldn’t be acted upon until an initial decision was made on renewing a permit request for the project that expired in 2021. That decision also would include a two-year extension of the time for its construction to begin.

That close to the moorings and taking up a bit of the water, local residents say it could make flooding worse.

Both versions of the project plans call for about 800 cubic yards of fill material to be added to the canal, which would allow a part of the building and its balconies to be built atop a sliver of what is now canal water. Opponents of the project, including the Lakeshore Property Owners’ Association, the Municipal Yacht Harbor Management Corp. and the Southern Yacht Club, as well as several tenants of nearby boathouses, contend narrowing the flow of water in the canal will increase the potential for flooding of boathouses and businesses in the area. New Orleans District A Council Member Joe Giarrusso, who represents Lakeview, also has opposed the project because of the potential flooding concerns. The canal serves as the outlet for rainfall runoff pumped from about 1,600 acres of the Lakeview neighborhood by Pump Station 12, and if the pump station is operating during high tides, the narrowing of the waterway could cause water levels to rise a foot or more, opponents told the DNR in written comment letters.

This Google Earth satellite view shows the narrow strip of land along South Roadway Street where the Pearl condominium would be built. The building would extend over part of the canal now used as docks by yachts and houseboats.
(Image courtesy of Google Earth)

The S&WB is working to reduce flash flooding in the area which means more water would go into the moorings.

The Sewerage & Water Board is presently working with the Army Corps of Engineers to find ways of reducing flash flooding in Lakeview during thunderstorms, which might result in more water being pumped into the canal, the opponent letters said. DNR spokesperson Patrick Courreges said the agency will be checking in with SWB on the results of that investigation and take them into account as part of the permit decision. In a response to similar questions about the canal fill’s effects raised by the state agency, the engineering firm planning the project for Oceana said there would be little increase in water heights. Engineer Jamie Saxon pointed out the narrow segment of the canal is only 165 feet long and would only raise water levels in that area by 10 inches, and would be unnoticeable in other parts of the harbor and in the lake. In part, that’s because the higher water flows back into the wider portion of the canal after moving past the new building, and again drops in height. And the narrowing also would not cause a backup of water that would affect the flow from the pump station, he said. Richard Sackett, chief executive of Oceana, said in an interview Wednesday that the canal is only authorized for a width of 60 feet and that the area presently is used by yachts and houseboats that take up much of that room. The proposed building’s footprint would not impinge on the navigation channel, he said.

The S&WB has not commented on the proposal yet as they don’t officially have the specifications.

The SWB has not yet taken a position on the project because the developers had not provided the agency with details of the project, said SWB Executive Director Ghassan Korban, though correspondence in the DNR online database shows the developers did point SWB officials to the documents they had filed with the state agency. “Once we do, we will evaluate with care the impact of the project on our canal,” he said. “Therefore, it is premature to ascertain what impacts this project will have on the New Basin Canal. “While we generally support future development in our city, our utmost priority is to protect our canals from any potential negative impacts that may diminish our ability to pump storm water,” Korban said.

Opponents initially shot down the 15 stories for many reasons.

Opponents also had raised questions about the original plans for the project to be 15 stories high, towering 159 feet, and dwarfing other buildings in the area. They pointed out that it would also block the view of boats attempting to enter the yacht harbor. The opponents contend that height would be in violation of New Orleans zoning rules that limit the height of buildings in the yacht harbor area. However, the proposed reduction of the project to six stories, or 65 feet, might bring it in line with city rules. Sackett, who is best known for developing television commercials for plaintiff law firms in Louisiana, Texas and nationwide, is also a former member of the Orleans Levee Board. He said his decision to downsize the condo plan was made to meet neighbor concerns. He said the new plan also would include space for resident and visitor parking within the building. “The new building has been redesigned smaller in mass than the Southern Yacht Club and the condos across from them, and while each of those buildings violate the zoning heights, we do not,” he said.

I am sure these condos will not be cheap so the battle will go one with the rich entering their vote.

Condo to add to flooding?
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