An eyesore on Jackson Street that will soon be disappearing is the Sara Mayo Hospital. Kailas Companies plans to renovate this Irish Channel building into 211 new apartments. The development will consist of mixed-use apartments and commercial retail on the ground floor.
The building has been vacant for years and City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who is over the district where the property is located, is excited for the new development and sees this as an opportunity to support the gentrification of this growing neighborhood. However, neighbors from the Irish Channel neighborhood are concerned with the massive scale of units that have been approved.
The City Planning Commission had not approved the application for the 211 units because it said it would be too many units for the neighborhood. Zoning did not allow that many units to be developed on that size of lot where parking could not accommodate that many residents. It was decided that the building could be developed with 111 units which actually allowed 10 units over the limit current zoning rules allowed.
Before voting on the project, Cantrell waived the amendment from 10 extra units to 100 extra units, waived the parking requirements and doubled the maximum floor-to area ratio. This means that there will be more residents living in the development compared to the lot size the building sits on. The waivers allowed the development to not have to be rezoned, bypassing the City Council approval.
There was a valid reason Cantrell believes for her decision. Kailas Companies must set aside 11 units for low-income residents. The new units will be set aside for new homeowners that make less than 80 percent of the area median income and the rent will be capped at 30 percent of that income level.
“I’ve grown extremely, extremely concerned by the lack of diversity not only in the leadership (of the association) but in those meetings. That voice has to be part of the decision-making processes Irish Channel Neighborhood Association upholds,” Cantrell expresses.
Howard Nobles, of the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association comments, “We are not against affordable housing. I think most of us actually requested it. But we think 11 (affordable) units added to this so they can increase 100 units over what has already been approved is ridiculous.”