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Proposal to convert former Korean church into apartments hits roadblock; CPC can still approve plan

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.

New Orleans City Planning staff have rejected a proposal to convert a former Presbyterian church into a mix of apartments and retail space, though the plan can still be approved by the City Planning Commission.

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 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.

City Planning staff have recommended denial of that zoning change in their preliminary report. Staff argue that while the change meets a number of criteria for a zoning change, the property has not been used commercially in the past and is therefore inconsistent with the Master Plan.

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 in April.

A zoning change would interfere with adjacent properties, since normal business hours would increase over a church’s typical three-days-a-week service, staff said. Traffic in the immediate area would also be impacted.

The vacant church is surrounded by several other churches and a few businesses, but most of the nearby blocks are residential. The zoning change sought by Bou-Mikael allows for businesses such as art galleries, day cares, cafes, medical clinics and small restaurants.

The First Korean Presbyterian congregation remained active until moving to Jefferson Parish recently. The City Planning Commission is scheduled to hear the proposal at their July 10 meeting, beginning at 1:30 p.m. inside City Hall, 1300 Perdido St.

The First Korean Presbyterian Church’s nave is located on the second floor, with a large rec room downstairs.

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