Guest commentary: A new day at Federal City _lowres

Bill Oliver

Recent progress in the selection of a master developer for New Orleans Federal City coincides nicely with Facilities Magazine’s recent designations of Louisiana as the No. 1 state for America’s best business climate and the greater New Orleans area being ranked among its top five cities for economic growth potential in the U.S.

Our state, local and regional economies are thriving. Economic development and outside investment are fueling unprecedented growth. With new and agreed-upon clarity regarding long-standing governance and management issues, New Orleans Federal City is poised to be a primary driver in new economic activity and job creation for the entire region in a section of our city that is too often overlooked by outside investors.

In 2005, a few days before Hurricane Katrina, the Algiers Development District, elected officials and state leaders successfully sold the Base Realignment and Closure Commission on keeping the Navy base in Algiers with the plan to open and transition it into a Federal City mixed-use development with the Marine Forces Reserve for the entire country as the cornerstone tenant.

Three years later, ADD signed a 75-year lease with the Department of the Navy for the approximately 200 acres of West Bank property, ceremonially breaking ground at Federal City in 2008.

Quiet but considerable progress has been made since ADD ceremonially broke ground at Federal City in 2008, and Federal City has begun to assume an important place in the local economy. The 411,000-square-foot Marine Forces Reserve headquarters was built and the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy (a high school charter military school) has been constructed. In addition to several private businesses, Federal City is also home to the Navy Federal Credit Union, YMCA Fitness Center, a privately owned child development center, Federal City Inn & Suites, a 32,000-square-foot parking garage and retail center, a new state-of-the-art, 400-seat auditorium, a new student life center for Delgado Community College’s West Bank Campus and a community garden. Also, the Algiers Bike and Hike Path opened last year between the ferry landing and Federal City, providing an additional 2 miles of lighted path for recreation.

Make no mistake: Federal City is open for business and open to the public, and the foundation for a promising future at Federal City has been laid.

With more than 800,000 square feet of existing, move-in-ready structures available for interested tenants, and the recent dual agreement by the Joint Development Committee and the ADD to finalize terms with a highly credentialed master developer team, Vista Louisiana, committed to helping guide and finance further development, Federal City offers immediate and unlimited opportunities for being front and center in the region’s economic growth and expansion.

Federal City’s prime location along the river and just adjacent to downtown New Orleans makes this vast and easily accessible property attractive for a number of reasons and for any number of potential usages including residential housing, retail shopping, dining and entertainment, green space for recreation and livability, as well as office and professional space.

With every great opportunity comes great responsibility, a fact that none of us involved in this project takes for granted. Federal City represents one of the largest redevelopment investments by the state of Louisiana and city of New Orleans.

We are now in the “fast lane” for creating a first-class mixed-use community at Federal City, and we look forward to sharing our success and new economic opportunities with the people of greater New Orleans.

Bill Oliver chairs the Joint Development Committee, which oversees the conversion of the shuttered Navy base in Algiers into Federal City.