By Marielle Songy, Mid-City Messenger
The proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant at 4068 Tulane Ave. was assailed and defended Monday (April 26) in two Neighborhood Participation Project meetings with the developer and Mid-City neighbors.
The location at Tulane and South Carrollton Avenue was the site of a Burger King location until it closed last summer. Since January, it has operated as a drive-thru chicken establishment, Nola Chick.
Addressing the dozen or so participants at each of the two meetings on Monday, Patrick Davis with Chick-fil-A development at the Atlanta-based corporation said the location would be a drive-thru-only site with dual lanes.
The drive-thru would be able to serve at least 30 cars at once, with restaurant employees taking orders from three cars at a time and two to four employees walking orders out to cars.
Chick-fil-A outlets are known for causing long lines and traffic, and several members at the April general meeting of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization expressed concern over the effect on traffic on the two busy commercial corridors.
On Monday, Davis said the new site will be able to fit up to 48 vehicles total, before the main street is reached. “With this being drive-thru only, we feel like we can absolutely keep traffic off of the main thoroughfare there,” he said.
Davis also said the operator of the restaurant would be able to close the drive-thru lane on Tulane if traffic begins blocking the street. There will be windows for walk-up service, but the restaurant will not have dine-in service.
Davis said drive-thru service is faster and more efficient and will not lead to excess traffic build up. He also noted that trucks and SUVs were included in the analysis of the space.
Meeting attendee Annie Labruzzo asked him: “What data is there to support that the resulting traffic won’t overwhelm the intersection?”
“We are in the process of doing a traffic impact analysis to prove that we will not overwhelm the intersection,” Davis replied.
Another participant, Erica Badowski, asked: “Have there been any studies to ensure that the new construction would not contribute to area flooding?”
“Yes, we are going through that process,” Davis said. “That’s a part of our design process and analysis and also something that we have to submit to the city for permitting and get approval on. We are going through that process.”
Badowski also added her other concerns about a Chick-fil-A location in New Orleans, saying: “I am firmly against the new construction for the Chick-fil-A. Historically, Chick-fil-A has not been a very LGBTQ-inclusive organization. I know that they stopped donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations, but there is still a lot of harm that was caused from those donations.
“We have some really fantastic chains that already exist here, so I just don’t see the need for another chicken-focused place in our city,” Badowski continued.
“This is my own personal opinion, but I think that Sidney Torres has contributed to gentrification in our city, and I think this is just another example of gentrification, and will be a contributing factor to that in our city of New Orleans.”
In December, it was announced that entrepreneur Sidney Torres IV had purchased nearly half of a city block at Tulane and South Carrollton avenues, the site that once held the Pelican Stadium. He mentioned a drive-thru chicken restaurant as part of his plans for area.
Although Chick-fil-A has restaurants in local suburbs, the only New Orleans outlets have been in the University of New Orleans and Xavier University student centers. The company recently announced a standalone location in Algiers and a pedestrian-only location downtown on Poydras Street as well as the Mid-City location, which would be the first drive-thru-only Chick-fil-A restaurant in the city.
The proposal includes demolition of the current fast-food structure at the site. The proposed site plan will retain the existing size and location of the curb cuts but build a new 2,600-square-foot restaurant further from Carrollton Avenue than the existing building.
The new site plan includes two drive-thru lanes, 30 stacking spaces, 19 parking spaces and 16 patio seats.
Fast-food restaurants are permitted in the zoning district, High Intensity Mixed Use, or MU2, but are a conditional use because the area is designated a Historic Urban Corridor Use Restriction Overlay District, according to an NPP letter announcing the meetings. A drive-thru is a conditional use in the MU-2 district.
For a conditional use, the developers need to hold the NPP meeting followed by hearings before the City Planning Commission and the City Council, which has the final say on approval.
Avery Foret, a land use attorney and urban planner with Sherman Strategies, told attendees that the conditional use process is in its beginning stages.
The team will make their application on May 3, she said. The City Planning Commission staff will review the application, and the City Planning Commission will hold a hearing and vote on their recommendation before sending it to the City Council.
The proposal has inspired a heated response on social media. On Monday, a participant who gave only his first name, Tom, told the presenters: “People just don’t like Chick-fil-A’s values.”
Davis replied, “Chick-fil-A prides itself on great service and being a part of the community. As it relates to its values, part of our corporate purpose is to make and leave a positive impact on all that we encounter. Our restaurant operators, team members and corporate try to live up to that purpose and fulfill that mission every day.”
He continued, “As it relates to the things we do in the community — a lot of what our foundation does is focused on education, youth empowerment and youth development, as well as trying to eradicate poverty. Those are the values that Chick-fil-A stands on. We’re hopeful that individuals in the community will look into that.”
Foret said she welcomes comments and questions throughout the process. She can be reached at 504-301-5228 or Avery@shermanstrategiesllc.com.