The new owners of nearly a city block in the heart of Mid City plan to redevelop the site to include a gourmet wine shop and epicurean market, a bar and commissary with outdoor seating, and an Aveda barbershop concept called The Parker Barber. The Neill family, which acquired the 1-acre, L-shaped property earlier this year for $1.17 million from its longtime owners, the Mese family, owns one of the largest Aveda dealerships in the U.S, the Hammond-based Neill Corp.
The company was founded in Baton Rouge in the 1940s and operated on Government Street until 1977.
Garrison Neill, who is spearheading the project, says his family is excited about returning to its Baton Rouge roots to redevelop the Mid City property and is looking forward to bringing a mixed-use concept to the block.
“Our vision for the property is to have it continue to be an integral part of the fabric of the Mid City and Garden District neighborhoods,” says Neill, who owns and recently renovated the iconic Columns Hotel in New Orleans, as well as other boutique hotels and restaurants in the Crescent City.
As currently envisioned, the former Mid City Bikes space would be redeveloped into the wine shop and market. An adjacent office building will be leased to a retail tenant. The former Garden District Nursery space will be redeveloped into the barbershop. The rest of the block, which most recently was GD Barbecue and originally opened as a gas station in 1929, would be redeveloped into an indoor/outdoor bar and commercial kitchen with outdoor seating and restroom facilities.
In order for the project to move forward, the Planning Commission will have to approve a rezoning to allow for alcohol sales on the portion of the property that will house the bar and food-service area.
While Neill says he’s gotten positive feedback from neighbors and Planning Department staff, he acknowledges he’s heard concerns from at least one resident about rezoning to allow for alcohol sales, which he says is necessary to make the project viable.
“We really think it will be well received because we want to make it a community space,” he says. “But to make it work, we have to be able to sell alcohol.”
Another potential sticking point is the lack of parking at the proposed development. The project will include a designated area on Government Street for rideshare drop off and pickup.
Chris Grand, Neill’s general contractor, says the project dovetails with the vision city planners and smart growth advocates had for Government Street when they made it more pedestrian friendly with the road diet.
“The whole reason they did the road diet was to create a walkable corridor,” Grand says. “So, if you want to discourage people from driving somewhere, don’t tear down a building to build a big parking lot.”
Neill estimates the redevelopment will cost at least as much as the purchase of the property.
The Planning Commission will take up the rezoning request at its August meeting.