Redevelopment of 1960s-era World Trade Center Building Begins After 20 Years of Setbacks
Developers broke ground earlier this month on a $460-million redevelopment of the 33-story New Orleans World Trade Center tower into a Four Seasons Hotel and Residences, bringing to fruition a restoration that has been more than 20 years in the making and mired in setbacks.
The World Trade Center tower stands in a prime location at 2 Canal Street, in the center of downtown and at the foot of the Mississippi River. A two-story cupola at the top of the tower provides panoramic views of the city and previously functioned as a popular restaurant.
Redevelopment plans call for 336 guest rooms, 80 condominiums, a restaurant, 28,000 sq ft of meeting space, Four Seasons spa and fitness center, and a rooftop pool and deck.
The project is expected to create 1,620 construction jobs and will take two years to complete. A joint venture of the firms Woodward Design+Build and AECOM Tishman is the lead contractor on the project. Carpenter & Co. Inc. is the master developer and Woodward Interests is the co-developer. CambridgeSeven of Boston is the lead architect.
One major construction challenge is that there is no vertical transportation in the building because the elevators are in various states of disrepair, says Lee Currault, project executive for Woodward Tishman. The 1960s-era tower has sat vacant for many years.
“We don’t have any working elevators in the building, which makes kicking off a renovation in a high rise tough,” he says. Contractors will be installing buck hoists on the exterior of the building to provide a means for workers and materials to move from floor to floor.
Another concern is the building’s location next to the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can temporarily limit or halt construction if river levels get too high.
“We’ll always have to be mindful of the river’s flood stage and perform key work at appropriate river levels in accordance with applicable permits,” Currault says.
Streetcar and railroad tracks along the riverfront create another challenge for the project, which calls for a low-rise addition to the building that will require construction to take place over the tracks. The streetcar route will be suspended for 18 to 20 months for safety reasons, but the railroad track needs to remain operational. The contractor will have to closely coordinate with the Public Belt Railroad to work around train times, Currault says.
The World Trade Center redevelopment comes after a succession of delays dating back to 1998, when a hotel project was first announced. Various developers’ proposals and financing attempts failed in the years that followed.
Most recently, the project was delayed for more than two years by a 2015 lawsuit challenging the city’s bid selection process. An Orleans Civil District Court judge threw out the lawsuit last year, and the Louisiana Supreme Court last year refused to hear an appeal.
The Four Seasons is scheduled to open by late 2020.