New Orleans Convention Center proposes ambitious 47-acre development

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 13, 2014 at 10:09 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- It's take two for the Ernest Morial Convention Center as it tries develop a stretch of riverfront property next door.  The ambitious proposal is to turn 47 acres of unused land upriver from the Crescent City Connection into a mixed-use development.

A few years back a similar proposal failed, but this time it looks like things are moving forward.

"We're in a Renaissance, guys. We've been waiting for this for a long, long time. It's exciting to be a part of it," said Kurt Brodtmann, owner of Dijon. An old fire house and police station at the corner of Annunciation and Melpomene Streets is home to Dijon. Nearly three years ago, Brodtmann chose the location for his fine dining concept knowing its potential.

The New Orleans native has watched the Lower Garden District neighborhood change and he is excited to see more change could come a few blocks away on 47 acres of unused riverfront property.

"I think this is the expansion of the city what's going on right now and the ability for different  neighborhoods with this blight that's been around to tie it all together," said Brodtmann.

The Convention Center just got the green light from Gov. Bobby Jindal to issue bonds that will create a public-private partnership, eventually helping to develop the property upriver from the Crescent City Connection.

The mixed-use development will include retail, entertainment, riverfront housing and a headquarters hotel. The hope is that the investment will bring more tourism to town.

"We think that's going to generate a tremendous amount of incremental meetings and convention business in the city," said Convention Center President Bob Johnson.

Johnson says the ideal plan is to incorporate Mardi Gras World and the old power plant in the overall development design.

Bonds approved by the state legislature will only pay for civil infrastructure like roadways with Convention Center Boulevard gearing up for a massive upgrade.

"We're relying on private investment and that's the key," said Johnson.

Convention Center officials estimate that this project could entail upwards of $700 million in private investment.

As the upriver site sits untouched one neighbor looks forward to seeing it brought back to life.

"Like a lot of folks i've been anxious for this corridor to do what its doing just now," said Brodtmann.

Johnson says the original goal was to have the project completed in time for New Orleans Tri-Centennial birthday. The goal now is to have the development well underway by 2018.

Next week the Convention Center plans to issue a request for interest to developers.

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