Bywater hostel gets new plan

Developers seek approval for Bywater hostel

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Developers of an upscale hostel planned for the Bywater changed its design in hopes of getting City Council approval.

The project, that initially failed to get approval from the City Planning Commission earlier this year, shrunk the size of the building and created some new designs to mitigate sound concerns.

"We made it very easy for them to say no, we were out of scale and we hadn't finalized noise issues," developer Ted Kelso said. "We had a 16,000 square foot courtyard, that brought a lot of concern from the neighborhood, rightfully so, so what we've done is we've broken it up into five different courtyards and only one of those courtyards is actually open to the public and that courtyard will have all the heavy public amenities as well."

The original plan called for a 48,000 square foot hostel building, but the new plans call for a smaller footprint at 32,000 feet. The idea also features some amenities for guests and residents in the Bywater.

"Our concept is a sense of belonging, it's all about driving our guest with the locals in to do that. It's about alleviating local needs, we have the washateria, the coffee shop, the juice bar. We've got great local support. We've got strong support from the Bywater neighborhood association," Kelso said.

But not everyone in the Bywater is happy about the plans, even at a reduced size.

Pete Breen, owner of The Joint BBQ restaurant, just across the street from the planned site, still doesn't think a reimagined plan will work in the neighborhood.

"If you put big hotel projects in the middle, you'll erode the residential flavor of the neighborhood and there's no getting that back," Breen said earlier this year.

Still, some residents think the addition of a modern hostel could be a benefit to the Bywater.

"I don't obviously want to see something that looks too out of place in the neighborhood because that won't preserve the feeling that we love about the neighborhood, but it'll bring people into the neighborhood. That's already happening, I think it'll be a boon to businesses and people in the neighborhood," Miriam Matasar, who lives in the Bywater, said.

Kelso believes it will be an even bigger boon to the city, turning a piece of property with a relatively small tax contribution into a big money maker.

"Our first year of operations we hope to bring in about $800,000 in tax revenue to the city. Right now, as vacant, the site brings in about $8,400 a year. Over a 10-year period, we hope to generate about $8.4 million in tax revenue for the city," Kelso said. "We plan to hire upwards of 50 employees and work with non-profit organizations to make sure under represented people of New Orleans have a place to work."

Kelso will have his chance to make his case in front of city council on Thursday.

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