Freret Street restaurateur makes move in Central City

New Orleans restaurateur Adolfo Garcia — whose High Hat Cafe and Ancora Pizzeria helped jump-start the commercial revitalization of Freret Street — has bought a building on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard for his next venture.

Demonstrating the degree to which the redevelopment of O.C. Haley has taken off, city officials recently compared the Central City corridor to busy Magazine Street as they discussed the need for increased parking they expect in the near future.

Garcia and several partners bought the former child care center at 1800 O.C. Haley in June, and he plans to convert its first floor into a restaurant.

“We think that bringing another restaurant into the neighborhood is going to bring some foot traffic into the neighborhood,” Garcia said, noting the similarities between O.C. Haley now and Freret Street a few years ago, when High Hat and Ancora opened. “The foot traffic on Freret Street is amazing right now, and hopefully, we can do the same thing on OCH.”

The renovation is still months down the road, and Garcia wants to keep what kind of restaurant he has in mind under wraps a while longer. But he said the location is ideal — situated in the Uptown area but with direct access to the Central Business District and immediately surrounded by major upcoming projects, including the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra headquarters and the Jack and Jake’s market in the former Myrtle Banks School.

“I was down there eating at Casa Borrega a while back, and I saw what was going on with the street,” Garcia said. “There’s a lot of action going on. It’s got great bones, kind of like Freret did.”

The proposed restaurant, which will have more than 3,000 square feet of floor space, appears to have garnered some community support already, but also some concerns.

The proposed change in use from the previous business requires the city to revisit its parking requirement: 21 off-street parking spaces for a building of that size. The property currently has no off-street parking, but the child care center had six spaces grandfathered — causing Garcia and developer Tad Mondale to ask the city Board of Zoning Adjustments last week for a waiver of the remaining 15 spaces.

Mondale told the board that he convened a neighborhood meeting in July to discuss the project, and that nearby business owners and business association representatives supported the waiver.

Still, there are some concerns about congestion becoming more of a problem on O.C. Haley.

Attorney Terrance Prout, representing Majestic Mortuary across the street, told board members, “If this place is allowed to start without using its land for off-street parking, it will cause an immediate traffic issue.”

The board voted to postpone a decision on the waiver request for 30 days to give its staff more time to evaluate the plan.

UptownMessenger.com is an independent online news site serving the Uptown neighborhoods of New Orleans.