The Port of New Orleans will pay $15 million to purchase and improve property along the Industrial Canal so it can relocate a company that now occupies two French Quarter wharves that are at the center of a proposed land swap, according to terms of an agreement disclosed Thursday.
As part of a preliminary deal announced last month, the port plans to trade the Gov. Nicholls Street and Esplanade Avenue wharves to the city in exchange for the Public Belt Railroad, which manages 26 miles of track connecting six major rail lines serving the port and industrial facilities.
The deal — which could take a year or more to finalize — will allow the city to open to the public the last privately controlled working wharves between the Central Business District and Bywater, creating uninterrupted public access to a 3-mile stretch of riverfront in the heart of the city.
But last month's historic announcement left unclear what would become of TCI Packaging, the company using the two wharves.
On Thursday, the port's governing board approved the broad outlines of an arrangement that would terminate TCI's current lease in favor of a new deal for property the port will purchase for $10.5 million at 4325 France Road, along the Industrial Canal.
TCI's new lease will be for 20 years and will allow it to occupy the France Road property immediately. It will pay no rent for two years to cover relocation expenses.
Starting in July 2019, TCI will pay the same rent rate it had at the Gov. Nicholls and Esplanade wharves, adjusted for inflation every five years.
The port also will provide TCI with $4.5 million to improve the new site. Once that is done, the company will have the option to purchase the property for $15 million, adjusted for inflation.
“This relocation agreement continues the win-win for all entities involved in the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad property realignment agreement. The agreement will allow for TCI Packaging LLC to continue to operate uninterrupted and it provides them a larger footprint for growth. For the port and city, we are able to retain an important tenant and growing business,” said Brandy Christian, president and CEO of the port.
The France Road property is now owned by Gulf Coast Shipyard Realty LLC, land records show. That company is owned by a group with ties to Shane Guidry, the chairman and CEO of Harvey Gulf International Marine, a marine transportation company.
The Orleans Parish Assessor's Office values the France Road property at more than $5.5 million.
The group affiliated with Guidry acquired the property through a 2015 deal to purchase Gulf Coast Shipyard Group, which built custom super-yachts there through an affiliate, Trinity Yachts.
Gulf Coast Shipyard Group also has a facility in Mississippi.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu had spent nearly two years considering selling or leasing the railroad to a private firm as a means of generating cash for the city. However, port officials and the railroad's clients opposed privatizing the line, worried that a private operator would be more focused on increasing revenue than keeping costs to the clients down.
The two wharves lie between Crescent Park, the $30 million, 1.4-mile linear riverfront park in Bywater and Marigny that was completed in 2015, and the Moonwalk, the stretch of riverfront near Jackson Square that Landrieu's father, former Mayor Moon Landrieu, helped open to public access in the 1970s.