The City Planning Commission couldn’t decide whether they approved of a controversial plan to turn a historic school in the Touro neighborhood into affordable housing, so the decision will be left to the City Council.
Commissioners agreed Tuesday to send to the City Council a proposal to turn the historic McDonogh No. 7 school on Milan Street into 39 affordable homes, but they offered no formal recommendation on whether they thought it should move forward. The council has final say over the deal.
That move came after the commission deferred its own approval of the plan by two weeks to give the development’s backers more time to address Touro residents’ concerns. The deferral had little material effect on the council’s eventual consideration of the project, however.
The roughly 140-year-old McDonogh 7 building, currently the location of the Audubon Charter School, is part of a “land swap” deal between the Orleans Parish School Board and the Housing Authority of New Orleans in New Orleans, La., Friday, March 22, 2019.
At times, Tuesday’s debate grew heated, as the development’s supporters accused its critics of trying to bar Black and low-income renters from the neighborhood.
“Black and working-class residents are responsible for nearly everything we love about this city, but opponents of this affordable housing development are implying that it will increase crime, and lower property values,” resident Clark Bucko said.
Some opponents, meanwhile, said the deal was an attempt by the Housing Authority of New Orleans to “take over” the Touro community.
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“Our neighborhood cannot handle, from an environmental, parking, residential and noise level, such a mammoth insertion of residents, their vehicles and their families,” said resident Jules Cattie.
The historic McDonogh No. 7 school building, currently home to Audubon Charter School’s upper grades, would be turned into single-family and multifamily apartments largely aimed at seniors under the current proposal.
It is part of a land swap deal that the Housing Authority of New Orleans struck with the Orleans Parish School Board two years ago. In exchange for receiving the Milan Street building, HANO plans to trade vacant land near its Marrero Commons development in Central City.
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