The latest effort to redevelop the site of the abandoned Six Flags amusement park inched forward on Tuesday, as the public corporation that manages the site voted to hire an outside firm to appraise its value.
The McEnery Co. will gauge the site’s worth for a fee of $23,500. The firm’s bid was the lowest of four submitted to the 15-member Industrial Development Board.
A fifth appraiser, Thorns Consulting, was asked to vie for the job but decided against it, board members said. Some members in April wondered if that firm had a conflict of interest because its owner, Jimmie Thorns, is a former president of the development board.
The board has been mulling Six Flags’ future for years, but the discussions have intensified in recent months. The site has been the subject of one failed redevelopment deal after another since the park closed up shop after Hurricane Katrina.
In recent months, board members have discussed — among other ideas — bringing in a national real estate firm to manage the 220-acre property, handing it over to the city or selling it outright.
The decision to get an appraisal done would be in preparation for a possible sale, as board members question whether the $54.5 million valuation listed by Orleans Parish Assessor Erroll Williams’ office is accurate.
The development board and the city also have been at odds over the site’s management. The board has accused the city of reneging on a promise to oversee the site, citing a 2009 agreement that tasked former Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration with property management and gave the development board the property’s title.
That agreement was never signed by city officials, an oversight board members say allowed the city to bow out of its commitment. The city has said it does not have the resources to manage the site, which costs the development board more than $10,000 monthly to secure.
Those tensions spilled over into Tuesday’s meeting.
Rebecca Conwell, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s senior adviser for economic development, said the city has tried repeatedly to help the development board with the site.
She said officials are in talks with at least three developers about the site. One, a Las Vegas developer whom she did not name, has urged the board to think about multiple uses for the sizable site, rather than just one attraction, she said. The city also has suggested the board engage real estate firms to help it market the site.
Board President Alan Philipson and board attorney David Wolf, however, said their gripes are more about the burden of daily management costs and the tepid reception they said city officials have given the board’s earlier suggestions for revamping the site. “I literally was told to back off of everything,” Philipson said.
Conwell, though, said the board could hire a property management company if it wishes. Nursing old scars is unproductive, she added.
“As long as we keep rehashing it, you’re doing this to the flames,” Conwell said, fanning her hand around. “It’s very obvious everyone’s upset and wants to move forward, and I’m offering the opportunity to do that.”