In the wake of the announcement last month of a historic land swap that will see the Port of New Orleans turn over two wharves at the downriver end of the French Quarter in exchange for the city-owned Public Belt Railroad, the big question that remained was what to do with the company now using the wharves.
The answer to that question may be near.
On Thursday, the port's governing board is scheduled to consider authorizing a new deal with TCI Packaging that would end its leases for the Gov. Nicholls Street and Esplanade Avenue wharves in favor of a new deal for property the port would purchase at 4325 France Road, along the Industrial Canal, according to a meeting agenda released Wednesday.
Few details on the potential deal, which would be negotiated by port President and CEO Brandy Christian, were available Wednesday.
Donnell Jackson, a port spokesman, declined comment, saying additional details would be provided after Thursday's vote.
Jack Jensen Jr., founder and CEO of Jensen Companies, a logistics and transportation firm that includes TCI Packaging as an affiliate, could not be reached.
Jensen has said his firm has 12 years left on a 15-year lease for the two wharves.
Days after the much-heralded swap was unveiled, Christian said in an interview that Jensen's company had "aggressive growth plans," and she hinted that TCI could end up along the Industrial Canal.
The France Road property is owned by Gulf Coast Shipyard Realty LLC, land records show. That company is owned by a group with ties to Shane Guidry, the chairman and CEO of Harvey Gulf International Marine, a marine transportation company.
The Orleans Parish Assessor's Office places the value of the France Road property at more than $5.5 million.
The group affiliated with Guidry acquired the property through a 2015 deal to purchase Gulf Coast Shipyard Group, which built custom super-yachts there through an affiliate, Trinity Yachts.
"The pleasure yacht business isn't exactly thriving, and so they decided to put this parcel up for sale," Guidry's attorney, Mike Smith, said Wednesday. He said he was unsure of the asking price.
Gulf Coast Shipyard Group also has a facility in Mississippi.
The land swap was unveiled last month after months of uncertainty over the fate of the Public Belt Railroad, which manages 26 miles of track connecting six major rail lines serving the port and industrial facilities.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu had proposed the possibility of selling or leasing the railroad to a private company as a means of generating cash for the city.
After dropping the idea of a sale, the city received five proposals from companies interested in leasing the railroad, including one offer for as much as $55 million upfront and another for $76 million over a 40-year term.
However, port officials and the railroad's clients opposed privatizing the line, worried that a private operator would be more focused on increasing revenue than keeping costs to the clients down.
In the end, the preliminary deal — which could take a year or more to finalize — was celebrated by both sides as a win-win that would allow the city to open up to the public the last stretch of working riverfront between the Central Business District and Bywater and create uninterrupted public access to a 3-mile stretch of riverfront in the heart of the city.