The 11-story Maritime Building at the upriver, lakeside corner of Carondelet and Common streets has been sold to developers who will open it next year as a timeshare property, part of a trend of apartment buildings shifting to visitor accommodations in the Central Business District.
Built in 1893 as an office building that was known for a decade as the city's tallest structure, the 105-unit Maritime Building was converted to apartments by architect and developer Marcel Wisznia in 2010.
Wisznia sold the building earlier this month, the first of two transactions that will land it in the hands of Orlando, Florida-based Orange Lake Resorts, which operates 26 timeshare properties under the Holiday Inn Club Vacations brand.
The selling price was not disclosed in public records filed with the city, though the documents note that Timeshare Acquisitions Real Estate LLC took out a $27 million loan to fund the purchase of the building and renovation work.
Orange Lake Resorts said renovations will begin in May and the building will open early next year with 105 one- and two-bedroom "villas" between 496 square feet and 1,110 square feet.
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Lenny Wormser, senior vice president at Hospitality Real Estate Counselors, the hotel brokerage firm that represented Wisznia, said the Maritime is one of several CBD apartment properties that his firm has brokered in the last few years that are destined to cater to visitors.
The 17-story apartment building at 144 Elk Place sold in May for almost $28 million to Florida-based timeshare operator Bluegreen Vacations. Other HREC-brokered deals in the last few years include the Saratoga Building on Loyola Avenue, which the RMR Group will convert to a Sonesta Extended Stay; the Oil & Gas Building at 1100 Tulane Ave., which Baywood Hotels is turning into a Canopy Hotel by Hilton; and the NOPSI Hotel on Baronne Street, which was opened by developer BLT.
Wormser said the trend is fueled by the proximity of not only traditional visitor amenities and attractions in the French Quarter and downtown, but also the nearby $3 billion medical complex anchored by University Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
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Wormser said apartment development is shifting toward the Warehouse District, as evidenced by the number of apartment and condo projects underway there.
He also cited the city’s limitations on short-term rentals in the French Quarter and the expectation that such rentals will be further curtailed citywide as factors behind the growth of visitor accommodations in the CBD.
The trend was also made possible by a zoning change approved by the City Council last year that made timeshares a permitted use in the CBD, where previously they needed conditional approval requiring action by the City Planning Commission and the council.