With a lease agreement finally signed for redevelopment of the long-vacant former World Trade Center building, the city has now set its sights on transforming the Piazza d’Italia area, another renowned city-owned property just a few blocks away.
Hoping to capitalize on the tremendous national interest in the World Trade Center project, the city and the Canal Street Development Corp. this week issued a request for proposals for redeveloping the parking lots surrounding the Poydras Street monument to the city’s Italian community.
The Canal Street Development Corp. is the public benefit agency that oversees the site.
“The New Orleans market is very strong now,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement that cited the plan to redevelop the former trade center building into a Four Seasons Hotel and condominiums. “We feel now is the right time to develop the city-owned site adjacent to the Piazza d’Italia.”
The development solicitation is for two sites, 542 Tchoupitoulas St. and 545 S. Peters St., totaling about 56,000 square feet.
The former site, bounded by the Piazza d’Italia and Poydras, Tchoupitoulas and Lafayette streets, is now occupied by a 150-space surface parking lot. The other site, at the intersection of South Peters and Lafayette streets, is a 28-space parking lot.
The request contemplates a hotel, luxury residences, retail and professional offices, all with “entertainment components and other related amenities,” as potential uses for the site.
The RFP boasts that the site is in a prime location to attract tourists and residents who are “migrating to the Central Business District to take advantage of the burgeoning urban lifestyle.”
Marked by grand columns and arches, the Piazza d’Italia is a public plaza designed by prominent post-modern architect Charles Moore and the local firm Perez & Associates in tribute to Italian-Americans’ contributions to the city’s culture.
The site was dedicated in 1978 and almost immediately was hailed as an architectural masterpiece. But the plaza quickly began to deteriorate as repeated efforts to develop the city-owned land surrounding it failed.
It was restored in 2004 after the adjacent Lykes Bros. office building was converted into the Loews Hotel. The hotel continues to maintain the site as a condition of its right to operate on city-owned property.
The winning developer in the current RFP process would have to share that responsibility, the city says. The city, through the Canal Street Development Corp., also has recently begun renovating the piazza.
The proposals for redeveloping the site should include a detailed plan for how the piazza will figure into the new development, according to the request.
The request for proposals comes within a week of the signing of a lease agreement to redevelop the WTC, a 1960s office building at 2 Canal St. that has been vacant for several years despite repeated efforts to return it to use.
The latest solicitation produced 10 viable responses to a request for proposals for the site, including plans from prominent local and national developers and architects. A selection committee appointed by Landrieu selected the development team of Carpenter & Co. Inc. and Woodward Design + Build to convert the old building into a Four Seasons hotel and branded condominiums.
The RFP process for the Piazza d’Italia will be similar to the one for the Canal Street building. Developers will first respond to a request for qualifications and information, with plans less detailed than those submitted for an RFP. The “most qualified respondents” will be put on a short list and invited to submit full proposals. A selection committee will evaluate those proposals and select one to sign a lease with the city for the site.
The deadline for responses to the request for qualifications and information is June 30, with the city aiming to have a lease agreement, of up to 99 years, in place by the first quarter of 2016.