NEW ORLEANS – The long-stalled redevelopment of the World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street might finally get underway.
The Louisiana Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear an appeal of litigation that was holding up the project, whose contract was signed March 2015.
By deciding to not hear the appeal, the high court upheld Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Tiffany Chase’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Two Canal Street Investors and the firm’s controversial president, Neil Fisher.
Two Canal argued that its plan should have been chosen since it offered the city the most money in lease payments.
The city ultimately chose Carpenter-Woodward Design + Build to redevelop the 1960s landmark office tower into a 350-room Four Seasons Hotel. The project would also include 76 condominiums.
The city bought the World Trade Center after it had been vacant for years, following a slow loss of tenants, and while a five-member selection committee appointed by the mayor awarded the contract two years ago, the series of subsequent lawsuits brought the building’s rehabilitation to a halt.
"We are pleased with the Louisiana Supreme Court's decision and we are now able to move forward with this transformative development,” Glenda McKinley, a spokeswoman for the Four Seasons New Orleans development team, wrote in a prepared statement. “The Four Seasons team has never stopped believing in the process and appreciates Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the New Orleans City Council, the Governor and State Legislature, who have been involved in making sure an expeditious end to this litigation can be achieved, as well as the entire New Orleans community for its support for the past two years."
The Four Seasons had expected a six-month interior demolition and asbestos remediation of the building to begin this month.
Fisher, with Two Canal, did not immediately return a call from Eyewitness News.
The city hoped the World Trade Center project would be completed in time for New Orleans’ tri-centennial in 2018.
The building is now expected to reopen in fall 2019.
"The Louisiana Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Two Canal Street Investors’ lawsuit over the World Trade Center clears the way for the City to transform the iconic building into a Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences," a statement from Mayor Landrieu's Office read. "We’re excited that this project can finally move forward. This project will make the people of New Orleans proud as this unmistakable part of our skyline returns to commerce as a world-class space for our world-class city. The project will create good paying jobs including over 16,000 construction jobs and 450 permanent jobs—and generate demand that attracts further investment across our city."