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Nick’s Original Big Train Bar heading back to Tulane Avenue

Rendering of Nick’s Place planned for 2400 Tulane Avenue. (courtesy of Paradym Studio)

By Emily Carmichael,

“Follow me BACK to Nick’s Bar” declared bumper stickers handed out Thursday evening at Avery’s on Tulane, part of a community meeting to discuss the updated and upscaled revival of Nick’s Original Big Train Bar.

Much like the plans presented, the bumper stickers are a spin on old favorite, the “back” added to the same stickers donned by dedicated Nick’s patrons years ago.

The new plans for the building to house Nick’s Original Big Train Bar adds five floors containing 20 condominiums. (courtesy of Paradym Studio)

Nashville architect Tyler Thayer of Paradym Studios laid out the second, taller iteration of plans for the bar. Where the original plans had a two-story building with the bar, a coffee shop and meeting space, the new iteration adds five floors containing a total of 20 residential condominiums, a rooftop pool, bar and gathering space, with additional parking across the street.

The meeting was part of the second conditional use approval process for this project. The original two-story plans had obtained approval in 2016, but Albert Kattine, the grandson of the bar’s founder and longtime bartender Nick Castrogiovanni, said a series of logistical difficulties, such as missing application deadlines, kept the project from breaking ground.

For this iteration, Kattine hired a new team, including a new architect. The new team has adapted the plans to match the new construction in the area.

In intervening years, the lots neighboring the site of the bar’s original and future home, 2400 Tulane Avenue, have risen up to seven stories, most notably with the renovation of the once-infamous Capri Motel into 200-unit apartment complex at 2424 Tulane Avenue.

Kattine said the original two-story building would have looked strange on the corner next to such taller buildings. He added the five residential floors to “cap off the block,” he said. The sale of the residential units, including one the Nashville-based Kattine plans to occupy, will also help finance the construction of the rest of the building.

The building that housed the bar for nearly a century was demolished after Hurricane Katrina. The land on the corner of Tulane Avenue and South Tonti Street, near the University Medical Center, is currently vacant.

In his presentation, Thayer said the new plans incorporate historical elements into the lower levels of the building, such as carved stone and locally made gas lanterns. The five upper stories will be mostly glass with wood mixed in to “warm it up,” he said.

While not a zero-emission building, the building sketches showcase sustainable features such as a “solar canopy” on the roof that will both shade rooftop guests and offset the building’s emissions with solar panels. The canopy, however, is taller than zoning regulations permit, so Kattine is unsure if it will be possible.

The five community members in attendance asked about affordability, short-term rentals, drainage, parking and traffic congestion.

Kattine said, as of now, the units will be medium-priced condos, and that he is “not trying to price gouge.” Like the developers taking over the Capri Motel site, Kattine and his team hope to provide a space for employees in the surrounding two hospitals to live. Thayer said that he still unsure of what qualifies as affordable for the area and what construction costs will be, the latter of which will help determine prices for the condos.

Julia Zuckerman, a Lower Mid City Neighborhood Association member, expressed worry about the condos becoming a “de-facto hotel” if short-term rentals were permitted. Kattine said he had not yet considered whether or not the building would allow them.

The additional parking lot is intended to accommodate the condo residents. The team conducted a traffic study with the original plans that showed no change to traffic congestion. Thayer predicted that the analysis would not change with the additional condos.

In the parking lot, the team plans to utilize drainage-savvy material such as pervious pavers and ia exploring creative drainage opportunities on the roof.

If the approval process and construction go according to plan, the project is expected to be completed in the next two years.

Patrons pack Nick’s Big Train Bar in the 1960s. Nick Castrogiovanni operated the bar from 1918 until his death in 1979, when family members took over. (via the Nick’s Big Train Bar page on Facebook)

2 Replies to “Nick’s Original Big Train Bar heading back to Tulane Avenue

  1. This is absurd, associating this project with Nick’s. It has nothing to do with the original except location. Also, the master mixologist has long been dead. The younger man he trained is I believe also dead. Even if you tried to repa ckage this on a fancy new building no one knows how to make those drinks, it was an art.i have been seething since I read this article. That piece of our culture is gone and to associate it with another bleeping condo project is offensive. The place I had my first sake martini is sacred to me.

    1. Hi, Pamela. I attended that meeting, and I think you’ll be happy to learn that this project is being headed up by Nick’s grandson, who did work in that bar, and who does know how to make those drinks! The land has stayed in the family all these years, so yes, the new Nick’s will pay homage to New Orleans’ culture and history, as it should.

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