A selection committee on Friday narrowed the list of applicants in the running to develop two city-owned lots next to the Piazza d’Italia monument on Poydras Street from five to three companies.
The lots now are used for surface parking.
The three firms — ICD Sitra, Chrysolite Management Group LLC and the joint venture of Carter, Majestic Realty Co. and Oakwood Development — will be invited to respond to a request for proposals to be issued next week.
They then will have until Nov. 18 to present more detailed versions of their plans to convert the lots into mixed-use developments incorporating hotel, retail, residential or other components.
The five-member committee said it voted to pare the list to three as a way to advance the selection process while also leaving enough finalists in the competition to ensure that the city would be able to negotiate a good deal.
The committee will meet again Feb. 23 to announce which team will be chosen to develop the properties.
The committee members are Cindy Connick, executive director of the Canal Street Development Corp.; Rebecca Conwell, senior adviser to Mayor Mitch Landrieu for economic development; William Gilchrist, the city’s director of place-based planning; Andy Kopplin, deputy mayor and chief administrative officer; and City Planning Commission Executive Director Robert Rivers.
Each proposal also was reviewed by the selection committee’s legal adviser, Scott Whittaker, of the law firm Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann, and financial consultant Greg Hartmann, of the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, who provided the members with summaries of the proposals and an assessment of each based on the development plan, the quality and experience of the team, their financial capability and their commitment to working with disadvantaged business enterprises.
The committee members, all of whom graded the developers on the same criteria, gave ICD Sitra and investors Crowninvest LLC and Operadora de Servicios para Hoteles de Lujo the highest score. That team has proposed a two-tower complex with a 355-room “lifestyle” hotel in one tower and a 155-room select-service hotel in the other. The proposal also calls for a 20,000-square-foot convention center, retail space and perhaps space for a New Orleans Center for Creative Arts center and a “jam school.”
Gilchrist called the ICD Sitra team, which has developed a number of hotels in Mexico, “diverse and experienced.”
The Carter team was ranked second. It has proposed a “sleek and sophisticated” $80 million development with 282 residential units, retail and entertainment components and possibly a boutique hotel.
All three partners in the project are based in Atlanta. Carter is a real estate investment and development firm. Majestic owns or operates about 70 million square feet of industrial, office, hospitality, entertainment, retail and sports projects. Oakwood is a real estate advisory firm that focuses on revitalizing urban communities.
Both consultants and committee members noted that the Carter team is “well capitalized.”
The third-ranked proposal from Chrysolite Management Group LLC, of Kingsport, Tennessee, calls for a Hard Rock hotel with amenities including a kids’ club and a restaurant. Chrysolite is primarily a commercial and residential rental property management company.
Committee members noted Hard Rock’s experience in developing hotels.
Missing the cut were the Finch Group and Knightsbridge Hospitality LLC.
The Boca Raton, Florida-based Finch Group had proposed a 156-room, moderately priced specialty hotel, 152 condominiums, a 200-space parking garage, retail space and two restaurants. Selection committee members expressed reservations about whether the company, which owns or manages various hospitality, commercial and affordable or market-rate residential properties, could actually build the $70 million development from the ground up. The project received low marks for financial specificity.
Meanwhile, the Houston-based Knightsbridge was criticized for having an unclear commitment to DBE companies. That firm had proposed a $30 million Vib-branded hotel and condominiums, as well as a Blue Dog Cafe restaurant and lounge.
The proposals, submitted in response to a May request for qualifications, contemplate the redevelopment of about 56,000 square feet of space on two sites.
A 150-space surface parking lot now occupies the site at 542 Tchoupitoulas St., which is bounded by the Piazza d’Italia and Poydras, Tchoupitoulas and Lafayette streets. The other site, at 545 S. Peters St., at the intersection of South Peters and Lafayette streets, is a 28-space parking lot.
The Piazza d’Italia was designed by renowned post-modern architect Charles Moore and the local firm Perez & Associates and dedicated in 1978 as a tribute to the contributions made by Italian-Americans to the city’s culture. It is overseen by the public-benefit Canal Street Development Corp., which has recently begun renovating it.
The selection committee’s final pick will have to be approved by the Canal Street Development Corp. and the City Council.
The city hopes to have a lease agreement for up to 99 years in place by the first quarter of 2016.