After being stalled by more than two years of litigation, developers behind plans to transform the former World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street into a Four Seasons Hotel and condominiums have applied for construction permits to begin work this fall.
Two permit applications, filed with the city Tuesday, mark a largely symbolic milestone for the potentially $400 million project, which is slated to bring one of the world's most prestigious hotel brands to the city.
Plans call for converting the 33-story 1960s office building into about 336 guest rooms and 80 condominiums, as well as a signature restaurant and 28,000 square feet of meeting space.
The project will also feature a spa and fitness center, as well as a rooftop pool and deck offering sweeping views of the city's skyline.
When the Four Season opens, likely in 2020, the hotel will be a big piece of a recent construction boom in New Orleans that has included nearly two dozen hotels in various stages of construction or conversion. The effort has gained steam as the city's tourism numbers have picked up in recent years.
As construction has been held up by the litigation, the project's developers, Massachusetts-based Carpenter and Co. and the local firm Woodward Design + Build, have long extolled the benefits the city was missing out on, including the roughly 1,600 jobs the project is expected to support over the two-year construction schedule.
Once it's built, the hotel will create 450 full-time jobs and generate $10 million in annual property and hotel occupancy tax revenues, the developers say.
The construction permit applications provide few clues about the upcoming work, except that they cover "renovations and additions" to the long-vacant building as well as interior demolition.
A spokeswoman for the developers offered scant details. "They are proceeding with the financial plans for a fall construction date," Glenda McKinley said Thursday.
Long before he became known as the man trying to score a payday out of the World Trade Cente…
The project's fate has been held up by litigation since not long after Carpenter and Woodward beat out proposals from four other teams in early 2015 for the right to reach a deal with the city, which owns the building.
Months later, the group's financial backers committed to moving ahead with the project, and construction was expected to start within months.
But momentum stalled after one of the losing development teams, Two Canal Street Investors, filed a lawsuit claiming that the city's decision violated public lease law requirements, lacked transparency and was fraught with political influence and favoritism.
The lawsuit sought to reverse the city's decision and award a lease to Two Canal, or at least to toss out the Four Seasons deal.
A Civil District Court judge eventually ruled in the city's favor, and in April, the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear the matter, essentially clearing the way for work to move forward.
This week, city officials expressed confidence that the project is finally on the right track with the first of what's likely to be a series of permit applications that will be filed in phases.
"As Four Seasons returns this unmistakable part of our skyline to commerce, they’re creating good paying jobs — over 1,600 construction jobs and 450 permanent jobs — and generating demand that attracts further investment across our city and along the riverfront," said Erin Burns, a spokeswoman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
With the court challenge behind them, the developers expect construction to begin in the fall.
The project, which could ultimately cost upward of $400 million, is slated to take roughly two years, with work wrapping up in late 2019 or early the next year for a 2020 opening.
Local investors in the project include Henry Coaxum, whose firm Coaxum Enterprises owns several local McDonald’s franchises; Woodward Design + Build President and CEO Paul Flower; Lee Jackson, president of Jackson Offshore Operations; lawyer Sherry Marcus Leventhal; Latter & Blum Chairman and CEO Bob Merrick; and Earl Robinson, president of PowerMovesNOLA and a partner in the private equity firm RLMcCall Capital.
Cascade Investment Group, a firm controlled by billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is also an investor.
The lawsuit that has held up redevelopment of the old World Trade Center Building at the foo…
Under the 99-year agreement signed by Landrieu, the developers will pay the city $3.25 million per year in rent for the first 10 years of the lease, $3.75 million annually for years 11 through 20 and, after that, an amount equal to the base rent of $3.75 million times the percentage increase in the consumer price index for the preceding five years.