The city will consider five proposals from local and national developers hoping to take over the former World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street, after a selection committee on Monday eliminated five other projects from contention.
Making the cut, in the order in which they were ranked, were:
Carpenter & Co. Inc. and Woodward Interests LLC, which proposed a 350-room Four Seasons hotel with 40 apartments and a separate cultural and sightseeing attraction. The opening date for that project would be September 2017.
Two Canal Street, a team that includes Woodbine Development Corp., Monday Properties and Valencia Hotel Group, which would build a 319-room Hotel Alessandra and 240 Alessandra-branded apartments. The project would open sometime in 2018.
Oxford Capital LLC, which has proposed a 516-room Godfrey Hotel and 166 residences to open in March 2017.
HRI Properties, which would build a 252-room Andaz Hotel and 295 Andaz-branded apartments to open in March 2017.
2 Canal Development LLC, which has proposed a 300-room Conrad Hotel and 225 Conrad-branded apartments. Local developers Darryl Berger and Roger Ogden are part of the development team. The project would open in December 2017.
These five will receive a formal request for proposals on Jan. 2 and will have until Feb. 16 to respond. The responses will have to include more detailed information, particularly financial information, about the plans.
The selection committee is expected to choose a developer or developers for the project in late March.
The committee will be able to select more than one project for the city to begin negotiating a lease with, so developers can be pitted directly against each other in the negotiation process.
The city received 11 responses last month to its “request for qualifications” from those seeking to turn the vacant 33-story office building at the foot of Canal Street, built in the 1960s, into a “first-class commercial and/or mixed-use project.”
One of those responses, a request to donate the building, was not scored by the committee because it didn’t meet the requirements of the request for qualifications.
The other developers eliminated Monday were Columbia Sussex, which proposed a 400-room hotel; Gatehouse Capital and Provident Realty, which planned a 245-room hotel and 280 rental units; Geller Investment Co., whose plan called for a 220- to 250-room hotel targeting the 45-and-younger demographic, plus apartments; Hixon Developments, which wanted to build a Hard Rock Hotel, apartments and office space; and ITM Development, which proposed a 684-room hotel and residences.
The Gatehouse Capital team was picked to develop the building last year after a previous request for proposals. The city ended negotiations with that team after failing to come to an agreement with the developers on the building’s value.
The field of 10 proposals was narrowed by a five-member selection committee consisting of Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin; Cindy Connick, executive director of the Canal Street Development Corp.; Bill Gilchrist, the city’s director of place-based planning; City Planning Commission Executive Director Bob Rivers; and Ashleigh Gardere, executive director of the city’s Network for Economic Opportunity.
Before voting Monday, the selection committee tried to delineate one proposal from another by weighing their commitment to using disadvantaged business enterprises, their proposed mix of hotel rooms to residential apartments, their potential public offerings and their debt-to-equity ratio.
All of those criteria probably will play into the final decision, particularly because the projects are similar in that all propose some type of mixed-use hotel and residential complex.
Kopplin, in particular, said he wants the developers to consider how to integrate the WTC property into the public space surrounding it.
The riverfront property at 2 Canal St. is widely considered to be one of the most valuable sites in New Orleans, but the city has struggled for years to find someone to redevelop the old building, with repeated efforts coming to naught.
Unlike in 2012, when the city last sought development proposals for the site, this time only plans to redevelop the existing building were requested. Two years ago, the city imposed “no limitations as to the type of redevelopment or use of the space” and specifically welcomed demolition of the office tower as an option. A consortium of local tourist organizations and leaders proposed demolishing the building, but their plan was rejected.
The building has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Although listing on the register does not prevent demolition or place any restrictions on a property’s owners, it does make any income generated by the historic building eligible for certain tax incentives.
The new redevelopment plans, which must be privately financed, will be evaluated on the idea’s merit, the experience of the development team and its financial capability, the city said.
The winning developer will enter into a lease agreement with the city for up to 99 years.