If you’ve wondered about the imposing cinder block wall rising from the ground at Rouzan mere feet from Perkins Road, you’re not alone.
Planning Director Frank Duke and Metro Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg also have gotten inquiries about the structure—a new Sprouts Farmers Market under construction in the Traditional Neighborhood Development’s Village Center.
“As I’ve told people, it looks bad right now because it is so big and so close to the road,” Duke says. “But they’re supposed to landscape that area, which should soften it so it won’t look as imposing.”
While Duke admits he’s had concerns about the aesthetics of the supermarket for months, he’s unapologetic about two changes to local law approved by the Planning Commission that made the development possible. The first change came in 2016 to the Major Street Plan, while the second altered the city-parish’s TND ordinance earlier this year.
“We’ve got little ability to regulate aesthetics,” Duke says. “Contrary to popular belief, I am not a land use god. My job is not to impose my will on the community, but to make sure the will of the community is done through responsible development that follows existing codes.”
The 2016 change was approved when Rouzan’s original developer, Tommy Spinosa, sought a revision to the setback requirement in the Major Street Plan for a busy stretch along Perkins Road between College Drive and Essen Lane. At the time, Spinosa had a now-defunct deal with Alamo Draft House and the revision would have enabled the company to build its proposed cinema closer to the street.
But the Planning Commission staff recommended against the request, as did the commission itself. So Spinosa revised his request, asking for the change along Perkins only between Glasgow Avenue and Congress Boulevard, essentially the length of Rouzan.
John Delgado, who represented the area on the Metro Council at the time, worked the issue on Spinosa’s behalf, helping secure the change at both the Planning Commission and Metro Council levels, though the Alamo Draft House deal would later fall through.
Duke says he recalls meeting with Delgado and officials from the city streets department to make sure the change—which reduces the setback requirement from 125 feet to 100 feet—would still give the city enough right of way to make any road improvements if necessary, and that everyone was OK with it.
The second change came earlier this year, when Rouzan’s new owners, Charles Landry and John Engquist—who earlier this year acquired all but two small parcels on the property—sought a revision to the TND ordinance that would make possible a deal with Phoenix-based Sprouts, which was bringing its first Louisiana store to the TND.
The change allowed for the current orientation of the store, with its windowless cinder block sidewall flush against the street and its parking lot facing the front of the store. The original TND ordinance would have required at least 50% of the building to be glass and that the parking is located in the rear of the building.
Duke says Freiberg and Landry worked with his office to make the changes because the community had indicated its interest in bringing Sprouts to Rouzan and was willing to make changes to the ordinance to accommodate the store.
“This was not a case of politics trumping planning,” he says. “This was a case of the developer, the council member and the planning department sitting down together to make this deal work because this is what the community wanted.”
Both Duke and Freiberg say they’re confident the building will look better once it’s completed, painted and landscaped. Plans call for installing “living walls” of greenery around the exterior of the building, and a new, landscaped sidewalk and bike path.
“Part of this was just that people wanted Sprouts,” Freiberg says. “Sprouts was not going to come if the front of the building was on Perkins and the parking lot was behind.”