NEW ORLEANS -- A few months after a group of local investors bought the former Times Picayune building, neighbors are learning what is planned for the site.
According to a letter mailed to nearby businesses and residents, a Dallas-based company called Topgolf has plans to build one of its high-tech driving ranges on the property at 3800 Howard Ave., alongside the Pontchartrain Expressway.
Instead of just sending balls soaring, players at Topgolf locations aim for 11 giant dartboard-like targets on a 215-yard-long field. Balls with microchips embedded in them provide instant feedback to players who tee off from climate- controlled hitting bays.
A restaurant and bar would be included on the site, according to the letter sent to neighbors.
Topgolf has 31 sites around the world and announced last year it was considering New Orleans and Baton Rouge as markets where it might expand.
Developers say if Topgolf selects the site and the city approves its plans, construction would begin in early 2018 and last about 10 months.
Although the letter does not say whether the former Times-Picayune building would be demolished, a proposed site plan indicates it would meet the wrecking ball.
The Times-Picayune and The States-Item, its afternoon counterpart that later was merged with the morning paper, moved their operations to the site in 1968. The Picayune began to move staff out of the building with its landmark clock tower in 2012 as the company shifted its focus to digital publishing.
Newspapers were printed at the plant until 2015, at which point a group of local businessmen, including developer Joseph Jaeger Jr. and float builder Barry Kern, bought it for $3.5 million.
The New Orleans City Council voted last month to approve a zoning change for the industrial site that would allow entertainment, residential and other mixed-used projects.
A meeting for neighbors to learn more about the plan will be held at 7 p.m. March 9 at the nearby Rosenwald Recreation Center, 1120 S. Broad St.