Talks over a proposed $1.5 billion riverfront development next to New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center appear to be stalled after nearly two years of negotiations.
The project, envisioned as a “Trade District” and touted as the largest single private investment in the city in decades, would include a large hotel, retail outlets, restaurants, entertainment venues and condos.
In a meeting this month of the board that oversees the convention center facility, president Melvin Rodrigue told board members that negotiations between developers and convention center officials have “stalled out to a degree.”
Rodrigue’s comments came after board member Robert “Tiger” Hammond had expressed his frustration about the project’s pace. Officials and tourism leaders have been questioning the status of the project for several months. Hammond, who is also executive secretary for the Southeast Louisiana Building and Construction Trades Council, says that he has been fielding inquiries from his membership about the venture.
“This has been over two years and nothing has been done as of yet,” Hammond says. “I kept asking questions without getting answers, so I brought it up at a board meeting.”
Some work related to the project is set to begin soon, including the $84 million transformation of Convention Center Boulevard into a wider and more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. But Hammond says the overall development is still waiting on ordinances and permits from the city.
“I don’t want to put blame on anyone,” Hammond says. “I just want to see this thing move forward.”
Hammond says that in recent months Convention Center leaders have been juggling other priorities, including its $23 million commitment to the city’s public safety plan and its $12 million purchase of the former Louisiana ArtWorks building downtown. But by June, there should be more confirmed proposals that the board can vote on, such as the hotel and improvements to the nearby Spanish Plaza park.