A former Korean church on Canal Street may have a new life as apartments and retail space if developers can snag a slight zoning change.
Khalil Bou-Mikael, along with his father Sami, both with Bou-Mikael Management, are hoping to turn the former Korean First Presbyterian Church into a mix of apartments and retail or office space. The property, located at 4439 Canal St., is currently zoned for residential use – which does not allow mixed-use development – so Bou-Mikael is seeking a zoning change to an HU-B1 district, which would allow for small retail establishments.
Most of the properties on the block facing Canal Street are zoned for mixed-use; the seven-unit apartment complex immediately neighboring the church is zoned HU-B2. Changing the church’s zoning would allow for more feasible uses, rather than merely residential, Bou-Mikael told a group of neighbors Wednesday.
“All of the uses would conform to what’s already on this block,” he said. “It wouldn’t be anything that wouldn’t fit into the neighborhood.”
HU-B1 zoning allows for businesses such as art galleries, day cares, cafes, medical clinics and small restaurants.
Developers don’t have any concrete plans for the building, though Bou-Mikael wants to include housing somewhere on the property. The church is backed up to its property line – leaving no room for parking – which is going to be the biggest challenge, he said. The nave is located on the church’s second floor, so the street level – which is mostly a large recreation room – may be converted to a garage if necessary.
The nave also features 20-foot ceilings and large, open windows, centered around an arch. Bou-Mikael said there’s absolutely no plans to tear down the large church; instead, he hopes to bring the brick building back into commerce. All housing units would be for long term tenants only, Bou-Mikael added.
Though they don’t have an exact use for the property yet, Bou-Mikael said it’s more feasible to request a zoning change before expending money on architects and construction. If the City Planning Commission doesn’t approve a zoning change, Sami Bou-Mikael said he’s not sure if he would sell the property or find a new plan.
“We acquired it with the hopes that’ well get the zoning change,” Sami Bou-Mikael said. “Honestly, I don’t know what we’d do.”
If approved, Bou-Mikael said the project would take eight to 12 months to complete. Once the zoning change is requested, the CPC will schedule a hearing and signs will be placed on the church property if neighbors want to attend.
The First Korean Presbyterian congregation remained active until moving to Jefferson Parish recently.