$24M Magnolia Marketplace opens in Central City, is hailed as evidence of city's rebound _lowres

Artist's rendering of Magnolia Marketplace

The Magnolia Marketplace, a $24 million shopping center in a part of Central City with few other retail outlets, formally opened its doors Friday, with city officials hailing the development as more evidence of the city’s rebound.

The 106,000-square-foot development includes T.J. Maxx, Ross Dress for Less, PetSmart, Shoe Carnival, Ulta Beauty, Raising Cane’s and Michaels stores.

The strip mall is bounded by South Claiborne and Washington avenues and Clara and Toledano streets. City officials say the site is passed by more than 70,000 cars a day.

With the exception of Michaels, which will open March 22, the stores are already up and running.

The stores officially opening Friday make up the second phase of the Magnolia Marketplace project. The first phase, a 6,000-square-foot development at South Claiborne and Fourth Street, opened in 2014. It includes a Capital One Bank, Subway and T-Mobile.

In a prepared statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “This redevelopment is creating more jobs, strengthening our local economy and giving residents more retail options right here in the heart of New Orleans.”

The Claiborne Avenue development joins a growing list of big-box retailers and chain stores that have either opened, announced plans to move into the city or begun construction in New Orleans in the past two years.

Rouse Land Co. LLC, the real estate arm of Rouses Supermarkets, recently filed plans with the city to convert an abandoned Home Depot store on North Carrollton Avenue into a strip mall anchored by a CVS pharmacy. That development is across the street from Mid-City Marketplace, whose tenants include Winn-Dixie, Pinkberry and Panera.

City officials are hopeful that the retail upswing will end what had been a steady flow of retail dollars out of New Orleans and into surrounding parishes over the past few decades.

According to a 2013 study commissioned by the New Orleans Business Alliance, New Orleans residents spent about $1.9 billion on retail goods outside Orleans Parish in 2012. The figure includes money spent in other parishes and other states. It excludes sales at restaurants and bars but includes sales of automobiles and other goods.

“This grand opening is about creating jobs, attracting national retailers, improving quality of life, building economic momentum and turning Claiborne into a regional commercial corridor,” City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, whose district includes the site, said in a statement.

Despite the excitement surrounding the grand opening, the development of Magnolia Marketplace was not without controversy. To proceed, the project asked the city to create the Magnolia Marketplace Economic Development District to collect an additional 1 percent sales tax on all items sold at the shopping center. The additional money will pay for some of the project’s construction costs, including the relocation of a significant number of water, sewage and drainage lines as well as to comply with the city’s elevation requirements.

Developers said the project could not have moved forward without the extra tax, which is expected to raise a total of about $2.3 million over 15 years.

Some neighborhood leaders objected to the tax because they said it would disproportionately affect poor people who live in and around Central City.