Judge backs pulling permit for Uptown ‘doubles-to-dorms’ project

An Orleans Parish judge has issued a key ruling in the ongoing “doubles-to-dorms” controversy near Uptown’s universities. It effectively keeps the pause button down for one of the projects that’s been halted since August.

Neighbors have been actively fighting the trend where local and out-of-town investors have scooped up single- and two-family homes and added multiple bedrooms through renovations and additions. The upgraded accommodations are marketed to Loyola and Tulane students, a rental market that’s been present in the area for generations.

Most student tenants in the area have occupied existing, largely unaltered properties. The disputed doubles-to-dorms properties have been completely overhauled, with some adding camelback expansions and occupancy that far exceeds the original home’s footprint.

Neighbors in the 1400 block of Audubon Street approached the Board of Zoning Appeal last June because they believed the city had issued a building permit in error for a project behind their homes in the same block of Broadway Street.

The BZA agreed, pulling the permit from the investor-owner, Amicus Properties of New York. The real estate investment company owns multiple properties in New Orleans and offers similarly converted housing in Georgia, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Amicus Properties challenged the BZA’s decision in Orleans Civil District Court. Judge Sidney Cates IV ruled Tuesday that the zoning appeal board was within its powers to revoke the building permit.

Opponents have elevated the doubles-to-dorms issue to the New Orleans City Council, which enacted an interim zoning district for the area that prohibits new residential expansions. They view Cates’ decision this week as a potential precedent for other projects they hope to thwart through municipal and legal channels.

Katherine Swartout, a local attorney who represented Amicus Properties in the court case, said she had yet to speak to her client about the judge’s ruling as of Wednesday morning.

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