Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has not been able to find anyone to redevelop the site of the old Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans East, meaning the property will pass, untouched, from one mayor to another for a second time.
A Landrieu adviser conceded Tuesday that she had no news to share with the public board that manages the site, nearly a year after the same adviser announced Landrieu’s office would take the lead on redeveloping it.
Responsibility for the vacant 140-acre property now falls to the 15-member Industrial Development Board and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, who will be sworn in next month.
Former Mayor Ray Nagin’s office also tried but failed to breathe life into the site, which has been vacant since just before Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“We are not ready to make a recommendation,” Rebecca Conwell, Landrieu’s senior adviser for economic development, told the development board Tuesday.
Still, City Hall remains “optimistic that the site is very well positioned for a transformative project,” Conwell said.
The development board agreed in May to give Landrieu’s office free rein in seeking redevelopment ideas for the property, after several proposals were withdrawn or rejected over the years amid funding challenges and questions about what the city’s market can support.
Those scuttled plans included a proposed Nickelodeon theme park in 2009, a deal to build an outlet mall at the site in 2013 and, more recently, competing plans to build another amusement park that the board has refused to entertain.
Though the board seemed poised to sell the site last year after a monthslong scuffle with Landrieu over its management, Landrieu eventually agreed to handle its marketing, if the board would continue to pay for maintenance and security.
That deal was codified in a one-year agreement in which Landrieu agreed to pass responsibility for the site back to the development board if his attempt was unsuccessful.
Last month, city officials told the development board they were hopeful they’d have a plan to announce before the May deadline.
But no such plans have materialized, Conwell said Tuesday, though she said the city still believes the site can be financially successful.
She also hinted that any project that might have come through was complicated by Landrieu’s impending exit from office.
“It is logical that anyone considering such an investment on this site would, given the timing, want to avoid the transition period between administrations,” Conwell said.
Board Chairman Alan Philipson thanked Conwell for her work.
There was at least some positive news Tuesday: Developer Tonya Pope, who has long sought to revive the former Jazzland Theme Park at the site, announced that she will build a $20 million wax museum near the site instead.
That’s a modified version of a plan she and her partner, the now-closed Musee Conti, announced last year to feature the museum’s wax figures as a Jazzland theme park attraction.
Jazzland operated only two seasons before going bankrupt. It was sold in 2002 to Six Flags Entertainment, which had its own financial problems over its three-year tenure and never reopened the site after Katrina.
Pope said her project has received financial backing from former Gov. Edwin Edwards and is expected to be open by late 2018 or 2019.