Initial design of the convention center headquarters hotel

An initial draft design showing the exterior of the proposed $557.5 million, 1,200-room Omni convention center headquarters hotel was released Tuesday.

The would-be developers of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s proposed $557.5 million, 1,200-room Omni Hotel have released the first design draft of the project's exterior.

Negotiations are ongoing and expected to wrap up by early 2019 between the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, which runs the center, and the development team — local businessmen Darryl Berger and Joe Jaeger, as well as Matthews Southwest Hospitality, a Texas-based real estate firm, and Preston Hollow Capital, a Texas-based finance company, officials said.

The large public subsidies being sought by the developers have been a source of tension among city and state officials. 

The nonpartisan Bureau of Governmental Research has said that the subsidies would total as much as $330 million. A firm hired by the convention center to provide an analysis of the project has argued that the subsidies would be worth about half that.

BGR also has questioned whether it makes sense for the convention center to be investing tens of millions of tax dollars in the project when the city has billions of dollars in pressing infrastructure needs, most prominently at the Sewerage & Water Board.

In the wake of BGR's assessment, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell expressed "grave concerns” about the large public subsidies being sought by the developers.

However, convention center officials have endorsed their consultant’s view that the project could generate $282 million in annual benefits for the city and would help create 1,900 permanent jobs.

The proposed hotel would include at least 150,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space as well as ground-level retail space on an 8.1-acre site at the upriver end of the giant exhibition hall. It would be connected to the hall by a bridge over Henderson Street.

The new hotel could be ready as early as spring of 2023, officials said Tuesday.