NEW ORLEANS — As the city considers three proposals for the future of the World Trade Center, one developer on Thursday said his proposal for the office building best answers a question from the city and residents: What are you going to do for us?
More important, James Burch said, is what his proposal won’t do: Cost the city.
Burch noted that his proposal is the only one that offers money — $150 million with $5 million up front — to the city in return for his company’s lease for the use of the property.
He also described his plan as one that would bring in tourists, jobs and tax revenue.
Burch, a Virginia-based developer, said his plan seeks to “bring back the most beautiful building to its former glory and beyond.”
He called the location at the end of Canal Street “the best piece of real estate in the state of Louisiana.”
Burch is one of three developers who hope to be selected for the redevelopment project.
City officials said earlier this month they hope to select a development team by July, with hopes to have any changes made in time for New Orleans’ tricentennial in 2018.
Burch’s $180 million proposal envisions the three bottom floors of the World Trade Center opened to connect passers-by from French Quarter and Central Business District streets to Spanish Plaza.
Retail and music venues would attract people through the proposed “World Plaza” and onto the riverfront.
The Burch proposal would also include office space and 88 residential units, as well as a 550-room hotel.
Burch, during a news conference Thursday, introduced the Valencia Hotel Group as the operator selected to manage the hotel component if his bid is accepted.
John Keeling, executive vice president of Valencia, said that all of the Texas-based company’s hotels are on Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List.
He said each hotel is uniquely designed to fit its location, such as a “hill country ranch and barn” hotel in Austin, Texas, Southwest/mission-style hotel in San Antonio, and a “quintessentially California” hotel in San Jose, Calif.
Keeling said the New Orleans hotels would be designed in a way that is “tasteful, subtle, and not a tourist cliché.”
Keeling said the hotel’s lobby would be located on the top floor, just under the rooftop club and restaurant.
Before going down to their rooms, visitors would be greeted with a view spanning the river and French Quarter, he said.
The proposal offers the World Trade Center 3,000 square feet of free office space if WTC officials choose to return, “keeping it in the historic context and improving upon it,” Burch said.
Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital Corp. proposed a $190 million renovation that would include a W Hotel and apartments, as well as a “Tricentennial sky wheel” near the river.
The Tricentennial 300 Consortium Group’s $165 million plan calls for demolishing the tower and creating a riverfront park with a monument that has yet to be designed.
The consortium plan relies heavily on taxpayer dollars, and the Gatehouse proposal offers the city $10 million if it is spent on improvements for the site.
Rather than creating a new monument, Burch said his proposal “takes pride in the great wonder that is already here ... doubling down on what already makes New Orleans great and world renown.”