NEW ORLEANS — New life could be coming to the vacant Plaza Tower, a fixture on the city’s skyline for decades, thanks to an ordinance the City Council passed last week.
The ordinance allows for the 45-story skyscraper’s owner to operate the building’s parking garage, but only if a complete redevelopment plan for the entire building is submitted within two years.
The council voted 6-0 Thursday to approve the ordinance for conditional use that requires JSW Plaza Tower LLC, the owner, to submit to the City Planning Commission within two years of the effective date of the ordinance plans for the full redevelopment of the site.
The company has one year to submit plans for the garage’s operation.
Bryan Burns, one of the partners of JSW Plaza Tower, has said the company’s goal is to transform the high rise into a mixed-use facility that would house apartments, office space and shops.
The council voted 5-0 in January to approve a zoning docket to allow the garage to operate. That was necessary to help finance a future renovation project, the building’s owners said.
Jeff Good, an attorney with Jones Walker who represents, JSW Plaza Tower LLC, said during the council meeting that allowing the garage to reopen would be a “turning point” for the building.
But District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said at the time she would not approve an ordinance to give the decision the force of law until she was assured that a full redevelopment plan would be implemented.
Cantrell recently has said she and fellow councilwomen Stacy Head and Kristin Gisleson Palmer will soon introduce legislation that will toughen laws for blighted buildings, particularly in the Central Business District.
During Thursday’s meeting, Cantrell said she had more confidence in the plan to bring the building back into commerce.
“This will get the lights back on,” she said.
Cantrell said the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, something that would open it up to federal and state historic restoration tax credit eligibility.
That aspect is an integral part of paying for any redevelopment.
The Plaza Tower sits at Loyola and Howard avenues on the edge of the Central Business District, removed from the critical mass of high rises that make up the core of the city’s skyline and CBD.
Opened in the late ’60s, the tower was meant to anchor a row of other skyscrapers on Loyola Avenue. Those, however, never came into being, and the CBD grew up along Poydras Street.
In the following years, the building began to deteriorate and was plagued by complaints about toxic mold. It closed 10 years ago when the last tenants moved out.
It has sat gutted in recent years after previous owners’ plans for redevelopment fell through.