Construction to begin on Riverfront development


by Katie Moore / Eyewitness News

Posted on September 7, 2010 at 6:41 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- The dream of having a vibrant, active riverfront is on the verge of reality.

Just a few days ago, the city of New Orleans signed a $24 million construction contract for the first phase of the riverfront re-development project, called “Reinventing the Crescent.”

It all happens as the Landrieu administration re-organizes the agency spearheading the project.

Right now, at the intersection of River Road and Piety Street, behind the flood wall on top of an earthen levee, barbed wire-topped fences keep people out of many sections of the riverfront.

But that will soon change as New Orleans reinvents its crescent.

“It's long overdue. This is something that should've happened years ago, but we're thrilled that it's happening now,” said Chris Costello, president of the Faubourg Improvement Association.

He said residents want to make sure the park will be taken care of before it is built.

“We don't want to have another park, that if the city doesn't plan for its success, we then have to take over,” Costello said.

Under the new administration, Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant has assumed control of the New Orleans Building Corp.

The former president, developer Sean Cummings, resigned his post at Mayor Mitch Landrieu's request.

“The business model I'm using at this point is I'm, first of all, trying to get this initial phase built, working with some initial city agencies to do maintenance and upkeep of the park as a part of their duties,” said Grant, who oversees New Orleans facilities and infrastructure.

The city awarded Landis construction the $24 million contract for phase one of the riverfront development. It includes the stretch from Governor Nicholls to Pauline, with new facilities at the Mandeville Street Wharf, and at the old Piety Street Wharf site.

Eventually the development project will stretch nearly six miles, from Jackson Avenue to the Industrial Canal.

Reinventing the crescent even includes improvements to the current anchors along the river, like the Aquarium that just had its 20th birthday on the Mississippi last weekend.

“We just had to get to a point where we were at an agreement that the agreement wouldn't change or be modified. The current administration is with us on that,” said CEO of the Port of New Orleans Gary LaGrange.

The port owns about half the land needed for Reinventing the Crescent. They just recently agreed to let the city move forward with the project.

According to LaGrange, initial plans didn't put pedestrians far enough back from the river. He said they’re trying to avoid another accident like the one in 1996 where a vessel named the Bright Field crashed into the Riverwalk.

No one was killed.

“It's very unsafe without these improvements. Having spent some time working for the port, I can tell you this area has always been looked at for these kinds of uses, but it needed a lot of work before you could really allow the public to have access,” Grant said.

The last few agreements still need to be signed on the project, according to Grant, but construction should begin in mid to late October.