A city agency Wednesday approved a lease agreement that will allow Bayou Secret LLC to operate a fresh-foods market and restaurant at the long-dormant St. Roch Market.
The New Orleans Building Corp., which operates as the city’s real estate development arm, agreed to allow its acting CEO, Cedric Grant, to enter into a 10-year agreement with Bayou Secret, whose owners include the founding members of the downtown collaborative workspace Launch Pad.
The company will pay the city a fixed rent of $3,500 per month for the first three years. That will increase to $5,000 a month for years four through seven and then to $6,500 a month in the final three years.
Bayou Secret will have the option to renew the lease for 10 additional years at a rate of $8,000 per month for the first five years and $9,500 per month thereafter.
The City Council is expected to give the lease final approval when it meets Thursday.
The search for a tenant for the historic market was underway for nearly a year before the city announced its selection of Bayou Secret last month.
The City Council last fall approved a cooperative endeavor agreement with the New Orleans Building Corp., giving the nonprofit agency the ability to begin hunting for a lessee for the site.
The NOBC contracted with the real estate firm Corporate Realty to line up tenants.
In a statement last month, the city said Bayou Secret offered the best chance for meeting the city’s goal of finding an operator who “could both operate the property in a manner sensitive to the community’s needs and who had the expertise and financial wherewithal to make the market an economically viable venture.”
The lease specifies that the space must be used to house a “full-service neighborhood restaurant” and a fresh-foods market with multiple vendors “in a stalls concept.”
Grant said the city, which spent $3.7 million to renovate the Katrina-damaged building, will be responsible only for maintaining the market’s roof and exterior shell. Bayou Secret is charged with completing the interior development to accommodate its needs, maintaining those changes and ensuring that the building’s utilities and other services are covered.
In other matters, Grant said the NOBC will issue a new request for proposals for redeveloping the former World Trade Center building later this month or early next month.
The city is attempting to find some use for the site after the most recent development plan collapsed earlier this year. Negotiations between the city and Gatehouse Capital, which had proposed transforming the vacant 33-story building into a W Hotel and apartments, broke down in April after the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on the building’s value.
Several attempts by the city to get the 1960s-era building redeveloped since the 1990s all have failed, leading the Bureau of Governmental Research last month to call on the city “to consider taking a different approach: an outright sale of the building.”
Grant said the latest RFP will follow a couple months of repairs on the building’s elevators and some walls that suffered water damage from broken sprinklers.
The NOBC also agreed to allow Grant to begin negotiating with the low-cost intercity bus service Megabus to rent space at Union Passenger Terminal to pick up and drop off its passengers.
The city is proposing that the company, a subsidiary of Coach USA, use two bus turnouts at the rear of the Loyola Avenue terminal at an annual rate of $70,000 or three bus turnouts for $105,000 a year.