Next steps for $1B riverfront neighborhood


After more than a year of negotiations, the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority Board has entered into a development agreement for River District Neighborhood Investors LLC to build a $1 billion mixed-use development and entertainment district on 39 adjacent riverfront acres advance to the convention center.

The 2.4 million square foot mixed-use space will include 900 mixed-income housing units, of which 450 will be affordable and blue-collar housing; 400,000 square feet of office space; and 115,000 square feet of retail development, dining, entertainment and cultural attractions.

A 5,000-square-foot civil rights exhibit is planned for the convention center’s mosaic room while negotiations continue on a permanent civil rights museum. The project also includes a redevelopment of the Market Street power plant, which was acquired in February for an undisclosed price from RDNI, which consists of Elmwood-based Lauricella Land Company, Brian Gibbs Development, Dallas-based Cypress Equities and others.

“What do you do with 40 acres along the New Orleans riverfront? They are creating a premier entertainment district that will attract tourists and residents alike and will continue to develop New Orleans to remain competitive in the national events and conventions market,” said Michael Sawaya, President of the Convention Center.

“RDNI’s hard commitment to build 50% affordable housing and work housing within the mixed-income development was an important part of this deal and will bring a roof over our many hospitality, public service, emergency services and essential workforce industries offer the head. who are in dire need of affordable housing,” he added.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2023. For the past 20 years, the convention center has controlled the $250 million property and will technically lease the separate leaseholds for the eight different lots to RDNI for the development efforts. For the leaseholds, a discount was offered on the appraised value of the property at different rates depending on the lot, Sawaya said. RDNI was offered a significantly discounted price, which is not disclosed, for sites that include labor and affordable housing, and there are no future payments to the developer, he said.

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He said the only additional financial support is the Exhibition Hall Authority’s $26 million for infrastructure costs in the developing area, such as B. Roads, drainage and sewerage improvements. This investment is necessary for the agency to realize value from leaseholds within the development area, he said.

What’s next

Over the next several months, the RDNI partners will continue to focus on pre-development work including zoning, transportation and environmental planning and permitting. The River District will build infrastructure from the ground up, including pedestrian-facing streetscapes, a variety of green spaces, retail locations, restaurants and entertainment venues.

The project is expected to create 9,000 construction jobs and 5,900 permanent jobs. Contractors can visit the RDNI website to learn about ongoing opportunities.

“We will continue to focus on the pre-design and master planning of the project in order to break ground in 2023,” said Louis Lauricella, co-managing director of RDNI.

In March 2021, the RDNI team was selected to develop the mixed-use community. The original call for proposals encouraged the involvement of SEB and minority-owned partners as part of the assessment in the selection process.

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“Justice and community impact are at the heart of our planning for this historic development, and we are committed to achieving at least 30% SEB/DBE ownership,” said Lauricella. “There will be numerous opportunities for partnership in this new neighborhood.”

In March 2022, the convention center received $8 million in federal funding for infrastructure investments in roads, drainage, and a sewage system for development.

“As RDNI begins work in the field, our role is to be supportive and reactionary, overseeing any processes where they would need assistance so we can ensure groundbreaking definitely occurs in Q3 2023” said Sawaya.

According to an analysis by HR&A Advisors Inc., the entertainment district will represent $43 million in new annual net tax revenue for the city and state and $66 million in one-time tax revenue for the city and state over the 10 years of construction.

“This is an important milestone for all of us as this partnership and project development plan will create hundreds of new jobs while providing additional business opportunities for small, emerging and disadvantaged businesses in our community,” said Jerry Reyes, President of the Exhibition Hall Authority.

Headquarter Hotel back at the table

Talks have resumed on a headquarters hotel for the convention center, planned ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic and put on hold as the city’s shutdown began. The issue is to be on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Exhibition Hall Authority Board.

The hotel would connect to the farthest upstream concourse of the convention center and be developed by Texas-based Matthews Southwest Hospitality and local businessman Darryl Berger. It was previously proposed as a 1,200-room Omni brand hotel.

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The concept has been on hold for more than two years as tourism plummeted, but now that the convention center is at about 90% of pre-pandemic levels, it’s time to reconsider the plan, Sawaya said.

The convention center hosted 125 events a year before the pandemic. In 2021 it hosted 65 events and in 2022 the center reports 100 events in the calendar.

The hotel faces funding issues due to property and sales tax exemptions and other subsidies in its funding package. In late 2019, convention center officials announced renegotiated terms.

In April 2020, the Bureau of Governmental Research released a report that suggested reducing the public’s financial contribution and called for the hotel to be postponed until tourism recovers. BGR officials said this month they will monitor the updated plans.

The hotel is just part of a massive ongoing renovation of the convention center and surrounding area.

Work continues on a $557 million capital improvement plan launched in 2018 to upgrade the 40-year-old facility with new meeting rooms, restrooms, technology upgrades, exhibit hall lighting improvements, a new roof, Convention Center Boulevard renovations and a new 7.5 to modernize -hectare pedestrian zone.

NANO LLC is the lead architect for Phase 1 of the improvements and has been selected as the lead architect for a $180 million Phase 2 project to replace large portions of the facility’s vestibule with new design and amenities, as well as a new main entrance to the center and a grand ballroom on a newly created third level overlooking the Mississippi River.





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