Monday, January 09, 2017

Welcome to Kern World

Last week, Cousin Pat wrapped up a series of informative posts diving deep into the murky waters of zoning and land use. (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3)  If you're interested in knowing why this stuff is so important, here's what he has to say about that.
Now, if you ask me about this process, I would tell you there’s a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. My biggest problem isn’t in a “corrupt” system, it is in an obscure system where citizens and voters and taxpayers never really know what is going on in their community until it is too late to say anything about it. I personally find that incredibly undemocratic, and I believe processes like that tear at the fabric of strong communities. While that sort of thing is all technically above board, it breaks the public trust through omission and obfuscation, and citizens throw up their hands and take a fatalistic, disengaged attitude toward their own city government. Sound like any place you know?
I only differ with him here in that I'm fine with calling something "corrupt" if this is what it looks like. Deliberately obscure systems that steer policy choices toward the benefit of an exclusive circle of insiders meets that threshold for me. In any case, the only remedy is finding ways to facilitate greater transparency and participation.  That isn't easy, of course.  Mostly what happens is developers and oligarchs get whatever favors they ask for.

We're just now finding out what Barry Kern and Joe Jaeger are asking for with regard to their recent investments.  Imagine, for example, the Times-Picayune building as the new American Can Company.  It's beginning to look like Kern might.
The group of local investors who bought the former Times-Picayune building last year are requesting mixed-use zoning from the New Orleans City Council — suggesting yet another major redevelopment in the works along the Pontchartrain Expressway.

The 9-acre property at 3800 Howard Avenue housed The Times-Picayune from the late 1960s until printing moved out of state in 2016. It was sold in September to a development group called 3800 Howard Investors LLC, which included developer Joe Jaeger, Barry Kern of Mardi Gras World, and Arnold Kirschman who recently redeveloped the 4500 block of Freret Street, according to a report in the New Orleans Advocate at the time.

The group does not specify its intentions for the property in its application, but says that mixed-use zoning will help pave the way for the future project.

“This site is currently zoned BIP Business Industrial Park District, though it is unlikely that offices or a business will be the new use here,” according to a letter submitted with the application. “The owner has therefore proposed changing the property’s zoning to MU-2 High Intensity Mixed-Use District, which would allow for the site’s full redevelopment.”
According to Uptown Messenger, the CPC staff is recommending against this change saying, among other things, that the requested designation is  “too intense for this physically isolated site, given the limited surrounding infrastructure, and the fact that the site is not easily accessible for vehicles or pedestrians.” That seems reasonable enough.  But when Kern's group bought the building, they clearly understood that those circumstances could change.
Jaeger's group also includes float builder Barry Kern, president of Mardi Gras World, developer Arnold Kirschman, whose family operated furniture stores in the metro area for nearly a century, and Michael White, a businessman.

"They have no specific plans or projected uses," Aamodt said. "They just want to participate in the growing New Orleans economy, and feel like the neighborhoods surrounding that location continue to get better."
They're so high on the location, in fact, that they've also purchased a warehouse not too very far from there. (Although getting from one building to the other is a bit convoluted because... well... CPC is correct about the area, basically.)  Anyway, they want to make that into an "indoor trampoline facility" which is apparently a thing you can have.
Kern is planning “an indoor trampoline facility” inside a 51,000-square-foot warehouse at 3035 Earhart Boulevard, just off South Claiborne Avenue, according to the application he filed with the city.

“This facility would be the first of its kind in the city of New Orleans, and would represent a great addition to the family friendly entertainment options the city has to offer,” Kern wrote. “This request would not greatly alter the fabric of the zoning district, but, if granted, it would expand the options for families looking for a safe, supervised place for their children to play.”
Anyway, Kern's group obviously has plans for the area. And Kern and Jaeger being who they are probably means that whatever plans they have are probably going to be permitted with or without CPC's approval. Because that is how this works in case you haven't been paying attention.

This also means we get to add KernWorld to our ever-expanding NOLigarchs map.  It isn't fully developed yet. And it's also probably a lesser dependency of Jaegerton for now. But, well, we know where it is, rougly.

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