Milneburg residents oppose possible Brother’s Food Mart in area
A proposal for a gas station on Elysian Fields in the neighborhood made residents voice concerns about traffic, the selling of alcohol, and what another gas station on Elysian Fields could offer the community.
Brother’s Food Mart owner Imad “Eddie” Hamden and Architect Plus founder C. Joseph Richard answered resident’s questions at a community meeting about the development at Norman Mayer Library on Oct. 9. The proposed gas station and convenience store would sell alcohol, be open seven days a week, and close at midnight.
Richard told residents about the proposed Brother’s Food Mart being 4,256 square feet and facing Filmore Avenue, which Hamden said he compromised on. He originally wanted the front of the building to face Elysian Fields, but he said Richard advised him otherwise in order to please the community.
“I’m not here to go against you,” Hamden said.
After hearing concerns about alcohol being sold at the premises, Richard asked residents if they would more likely support a development where they could consume alcohol on site, rather than purchase and leave.
Many voiced that they would rather have a restaurant at the location. Residents said the establishment could strain the traffic light at the intersection and attract crimes that come with gas stations in New Orleans.
Gentilly resident Josh Toibert asked why the Brother’s Food Mart would want to come to a location where hot food is served across the street at Canseco’s Market, and if the location plans to hire locally. Hamden said they hire employees and managers from the community.
“You’re here to sell something to us that we obviously—the temperature in the room says—we’re opposed to it,” Toibert said. “I oppose it because when you guys leave a 4,000-square-foot building that’s still there that has to go through a grounds-field remediation process, it’s going to be very difficult for someone else to come in and develop.”
Toibert suggested a restaurant or bar be developed there instead. Some community members recalled ExxonMobil previously having a gas station at the location, and they predict alcohol will be the main draw to the site.
Officials Byron C. Williams, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge, and Nick Harris, Dillard University Director of Community Relations, both opposed the gas station. Williams said he would do everything he could to fight the proposal. Harris said it would be wrong to bring alcohol to this neighborhood after it has come back to life post-Hurricane Katrina.
Gentilly Terrace & Gardens board member Mae LiZama said that residents came to the meeting for a reason and were not being close-minded.
“We’ve experienced Brother’s (Food Mart),” said LiZama. “Brother’s brings in the kind of patrons that don’t really live in this neighborhood, and that is what our concern is.”
Hamden said that his business has a stigma, and he doesn’t know where it came from. He later broadly asked what residents want at the 5300 Elysian Fields address. Toibert said he appreciated him asking and that he thinks the community is not so sure, which is why they came to the meeting.
Toibert asked how he could be sure that the development could make a positive impact to the community. “What are you going to do to benefit us?” Toibert asked. “Because you guys haven’t sold anything. You’re deflecting this.”
Leslie Bouie, New Beginnings School Foundation board president, recommended that the next community meeting on the proposal be held at the Avery Alexander School auditorium, where there’s plenty of room.
According to New Orleans East Business Alliance Vice President Alicia Plummer Clivens, the proposal for the Brother’s Food Mart would go before the City Planning Commission within the next two months.