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Jonathan Shaver Interviewed for Lower St. Charles Development Article


Multiple projects take shape on lower St. Charles


By: Robin Shannon, Reporter | November 26, 2014 | New Orleans Citybusiness


A mile-long stretch of Uptown’s premier thoroughfare is transforming as business owners and developers see new potential in properties they say have been underutilized.

An assortment of projects in the 10-block stretch of St. Charles Avenue between Josephine Street and the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass are either in development or under construction. Some are merely improvements on existing businesses, but others involve a complete change of use.

“Considering the location, I think some people might be asking why there isn’t more activity and why it hasn’t come sooner?” said Jonathan Shaver, an agent with Re/Max Commercial Brokers. “It is a central location that has historic building stock asking for new life.”

In the past six months, Shaver has been involved in three transactions in the neighborhood, including a pair of properties along Prytania Street that are being renovated for residential use.

“The activity in the past few months is similar to what has been going on a few blocks up on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard,” Shaver said. “Property owners are seeing the value of being just blocks from the Warehouse District and the CBD.”

Shaver’s most recent sale in the area was in July, when he helped auction house owner Adam Lambert purchase the former Daiquiri Palace Café at 1401 St. Charles Ave. The building had been shuttered since 2012, when the city closed the business after a series of violations and neighborhood complaints.

“It’s a good piece of property that had been stigmatized by previous use,” Shaver said. “It was hard to pinpoint the highest and best use.”

Lambert, who operates Crescent City Auction Gallery across the street, has now reopened the property as Crescent City Auction Exchange, an additional showroom and auction house. He said he had been eyeing the property since the bar closed and was waiting for the right time to grow his business.

“I saw this as an opportunity to do something with the space that would bring the property back up to the standards of the neighborhood,” Lambert said. “This stretch of St. Charles serves as a sort of transition between the Warehouse District and Garden District. I think there are a number of business owners looking for ways to attract more visitors to this part of the street.”

A few blocks from Lambert’s property, developer Jess Bourgeois is in the process of redeveloping the former Halpern’s Furnishing store at 1532 St. Charles Ave. into a liquor distillery and restaurant. He wants his project to contribute to what he describes as a “synergy” among restaurant owners in the area.

“You’ve got Zea’s, the Irish House, Houston’s and Delmonico all within walking distance of each other, and we hope to fit right in by offering something a little different,” Bourgeois said. “With a few more key business owners in the mix, I believe this stretch of St. Charles Avenue is set to become a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood similar to what you see along Magazine Street.”

Bourgeois said he considered a number of different spots in the city, including several in the Warehouse District, but kept coming back to St. Charles Avenue. The make-up of the Halpern’s building sets up well for what he is planning, he added.

“The exposed brick and wood beams on the ceiling just scream distillery,” he said. “The building is also within a commercial district that allows us to pursue the idea without a zoning change.”

Immediately behind Bourgeois’ project, a minor hotel expansion is starting to take shape. The Prytania Park Hotel, 1525 Prytania St., is planning a 200-room, two-phase expansion that would occupy almost an entire block along St. Charles Avenue. The Halpern family also owns the hotel.

Project architect Wayne Troyer of Studio WTA said the hotel development wants to attract visitors to the city who are looking for an option to the CBD and French Quarter.

“There is so much growth in the CBD and so little property left for development,” Troyer said. “I think we are going to start to see developers look for alternative areas, and this stretch of St. Charles is part of that.”

A little farther down the avenue, another hotel development project is in the works. Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners is planning a $10 million renovation of the 106-room Pontchartrain Hotel following its purchase of the property earlier this month. The investment group is planning to upgrade hotel operations that will cater to visitors seeking a long-term stay in the city.

“There are times when a number of projects fall into place at the same time, and I think you are seeing that here,” Shaver said. “Development of one property starts a chain reaction that can affect entire blocks.” •

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