NO.driveshack.041318.006

Developer Joe Jaeger talks about the development of Drive Shack, a golf-themed driving range and entertainment complex at the former Times-Picayune building in New Orleans, Thursday, April 12, 2018. The former Times-Picayune building will be demolished to make way for Drive Shack.

Last year, I spoke out against what I thought was a bad deal for the state with Harrah's. Last week, I spoke out against what I thought was a bad deal for the convention center with TopGolf. It's only appropriate that I withdraw as a co-developer of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center's proposed hotel project in light of my concerns with recent decisions by its leadership.

Letters: Better use of New Orleans' tourism tax dollars starts with transparency from New Orleans & Co.

From the outset, the convention center's consultants said that for the proposed hotel to be successful, it had to be part of a thoughtful plan for the entire 47 undeveloped acres. The hotel was only a part of that larger vision that would create jobs, provide retail and entertainment opportunities, construct workforce and market-rate housing, and spur economic development in an area ripe for activity. A well-executed plan would create a new district for locals and tourists alike that would rival the best developments anywhere in America.

As a result of not having a new or using prior master plans for guidance, we see haphazard development proposals like TopGolf being considered behind closed doors, using no-bid leases that could disrupt rather than support redevelopment of the district. Particularly disturbing about this piecemeal approach to development is that the TopGolf proposal eliminates workforce housing from an earlier version of the convention center's plan in place of golf entertainment. While I am biased because TopGolf's competitor is supposed to locate on the former Times Picayune site that I co-own, I think we can all agree that eliminating workforce housing for a second, new driving range makes no sense.

To be clear, I fully and unequivocally support the convention center's vision to master plan its upriver site and have a hotel as its anchor. The members of the development team I was part of are first-class in every way and fully capable of developing such a hotel as well as all other aspects of this development. But Step No. 1 for the convention center is to shine light on this process and through stakeholder and community engagement, develop a master plan it adheres to driven by professionals. It's time to end the no-bid decision-making by a select few on the board that takes place entirely behind closed doors.

Why union representing 1,700 New Orleans workers urges rejecting new Convention Center hotel

As I withdraw my participation from this project, I am pleased to lend my support to a different one being considered in Baton Rouge. Thanks to the tenacity and leadership of state Senate President John Alario, state Sen. Gary Smith, and others in the Legislature, I am proud to support a Harrah's deal to extend its gaming contract that will generate over 200 million additional dollars for the state and the city than what was proposed last year.

I thank the team at Harrah's for listening and responding to concerns I and others raised. I encourage the convention center leadership to listen to the chorus of voices concerned about its plans and how it does business. Doing so, will result in a transformational master plan that we can all support.

Joe Jaeger

businessman

Metaire