NEW ORLEANS – The abandoned "Mega-Zeph," seen along I-510, has become a metaphor for the rollercoaster that was and is the old Six Flags site in New Orleans East.
Tuesday, the city's Industrial Development Board passed on two proposals to redevelop the site shuttered by Hurricane Katrina. One by the Baton Rouge based Paidia Company sought to re-establish the original name of the park Jazzland with new rides and a water park.
IDB members questioned the developer's ability to deliver on the $100 million deal. (See Paidia proposal)
"I still see nowhere that any principals from Jazzland have any skin in the game," said IDB Chairman Alan Philipson. "I haven't see anything here that shows there is a firm commitment of any dollars at all."
"I've got questions about qualification, performance history, the financial capacity," said board member Amy Quirk, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's economic development advisor. "We haven't seen the audited financials."
Jazzland President Tonya Pope said her financial backers need a loose commitment from the board.
"We need to go into some sort of negotiation phase before we can finalize those dollars, so that we can give you the comfort level you need," she said. "So that the other end knows that it is a real project, that it is going to happen."
The board also had doubts about a more far reaching project called Transformational Village. Besides amusement and water parks, it calls for 16,000 new homes near the site and the redevelopment of the abandoned Grand Theater at Lake Forest. (See Transformation Village proposal)
"These proposals are an insult to the people of New Orleans," said board member Jeff Hebert. "There are no specifics in here at all as to how the actual things get done. Until we see that, we will not be making decisions on these proposals."
"I am not looking for a pipe dream," said board member Justin Augustine. "I'm looking for a viable project that can go into this community. I see a lot of concepts. I don't see any meat on the bone."
Transformation Village Principal Partner Frank Scurlock shot back, "This is not just a pipe dream...it is a vision. Does our firm specifically have (the financial guarantees), the answer is no. Do we know people who have actually done this with other projects in this state and across America, absolutely."
Members of the Industrial Development Board point out that the Jazzland/Six Flags site has already failed twice and it's much too big to fail a third time.
"We can't afford to let this fall on it's face," said Philipson. "We need to have a financial commitment in order to move forward."
The Industrial Development Board invited the developers to resubmit their proposals with more detailed financial information. Members expect other proposals as well, including some that do not include a theme park.