Temporary plans for Velvet Ditch Seafood at old Abner’s approved by preservation commission

Published 12:45 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Monday night’s meeting of the Courthouse Square Historic Preservation Commission was a bit of a roller coaster ride for Landshark owner Jared Foster.

Foster presented a request for a Certificate of Appropriateness for temporary plans for the former Abner’s building on the corner of South Lamar Boulevard and University Avenue.

His goal was to be able to provide outdoor dining and serve more people than the existing building would allow during the upcoming football season before attempting to build something more permanent on the lot that he is renting.

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After almost an hour and a half of debate and discussion from Foster, the commissioners and a few community members opposing his plans, the commission voted 3 to 2 to deny the plans.

However, after a complimentary review of Foster’s plans for the site, the commission called back the first vote and re-voted, resulting in a unanimous approval of the temporary plan.

The temporary plans included replacing the existing storefront with a garage door-like front, fencing, food-truck parking, 15 potted palm trees, removing all parking and putting down turf, adding a small stage and tables with cabanas. Foster said most of the elements would eventually be removed when the permanent structure was built around December or January.

A few people who live near the area were against the plans, in fear the stage would provide loud music, televisions that would distract drivers, parking along neighborhood streets and other concerns.

Commissioner Andy Phillips made the motion to approve with the following conditions: no cabanas and no palm trees and no stage. The placement of televisions, the turf and umbrellas would be up to the planning department.

After the motion died 3 to 2, the commission then reviewed the plans for the future permanent building. They told Foster they felt it was too industrial for the Square and while they approved the use and idea of the restaurant, which would be called The Velvet Ditch, they probably would not approve the design of the structure.

Toward the end of that discussion, Commissioner Laurie Beth Ellis asked to bring the vote back. The commission approved reconsidering the original motion made by Phillips back to consideration and the motion then was approved unanimously.

The plans will have to go before the Planning Commission for its approval. If approved, Foster can move forward with the temporary plans for the restaurant. The final design of the permanent structure will be back before the Courthouse Square Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission.

It was noted by Commission chair Stuart Povall that he was “a little uncomfortable” with calling the vote back after most of the neighbors who attended the meeting left the chambers; however, he said they could appeal the decision to the Board of Aldermen.