Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the state board that oversees the Mercedes-Benz Superdome are millions of dollars apart in how they value an unused city street that forms part of Champions Square, potentially complicating efforts to reach an agreement on how much the city should be paid for the use of that property next to the Dome.
An appraisal conducted in April for the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, also known as the Superdome Commission, pegs the value of the 1400 block of LaSalle Street at $1.15 million, less than half of the $3.3 million value in a 2015 appraisal the Cantrell administration is using.
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The Superdome Commission has not yet shared its appraisal with city officials because it includes another property and was not in its final form, according to Savannah Chamblee, a spokeswoman for the Superdome.
The New Orleans Advocate obtained the appraisal through a public records request, though references to the other property were redacted.
“The LSED is confident that its appraisal is an accurate reflection of the value,” Chamblee said in an email Friday.
The city and the Superdome Commission have been talking for years to try to agree on a land swap that would see the city turn over the LaSalle Street property, which runs between the stadium and Champions Square.
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But with no sign those discussions would bear fruit, Cantrell sent a letter to the commission last month calling for a $488,000 annual lease and $3.6 million in back payments, based on the city's $3.3 million appraisal of the site.
If the rent was set at the same percentage of the Superdome Commission’s appraisal, the payment to the city would come to about $156,200 a year.
“Since the mayor’s first communication, the LSED has acknowledged a mutual desire to reach a conclusion on the ownership of LaSalle Street and has communicated this to the mayor,” Chamblee said earlier in the week.
“However, the LSED continues to disagree with the city’s valuation of the property and the resulting lease proposal. We intend to seek a fair and equitable agreement through productive negotiations with the mayor and her staff that will be conducted in a professional and businesslike manner as soon as possible.”
Cantrell’s push for a lease comes as she’s been campaigning to redirect to the city some of the tax money that flows to tourism and hospitality groups like the Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The city has said the money is needed to help pay for $80 million to $100 million a year in increased spending on streets, drainage and other infrastructure.
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LaSalle Street is used as part of the stadium complex, though it is blocked off only by bollards that can be removed to allow vehicles to pass.
The fact that it can still be used as a street, limiting what can be built on it, appeared to play a significant role in the Superdome Commission’s lower appraisal, with the value of the property dropping from $77 per square foot to $19.25 per square foot after adjustments for surface restrictions, air rights and underground utilities were factored in.
The appraisal also argues that there has been no significant change in the market conditions for the area around the Superdome since 2008, which would apparently conflict with appraisals the city received.
An initial appraisal done for the city in 2010, when the Superdome Commission first moved forward with plans for LaSalle Street, put the value of the property at $2.8 million.
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