Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS - A new culinary institute, spearheaded by members of the Brennan family, chef John Besh and local universities, has been approved for the site of the former Louisiana ArtWorks building on Howard Ave., officials announced Wednesday.
Corporate Realty, as agent for Louisiana ArtWorks, announced the approval of the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, in a $6.2 million deal.
The institute was selected from among several bidders, reviewed by the Louisiana Artists Guild, the non-profit that owns the 93,649 square foot building at 725 Howard Ave., the former Bradford’s Furniture building.
The Arts Council of Louisiana sank $25 million in donations and government grants into the building to turn it into a giant artist studio called Louisiana Artworks. It opened briefly in 2008, then closed less than a year later.
Local restaurateur Ti Martin of Commander’s Palace and Café Adelaide is leading the group of culinary entrepreneurs that submitted the winning bid to buy the building.
"We're here because we see an opportunity," said Martin. "An opportunity to honor the original mission of the ArtWorks building, of investing in our cultural assets to strengthen the cultural fabric of New Orleans."
At the time of the bid, Chef Tory McPhail from Commander's Palace said a top-notch culinary institute is needed to keep up with the demand for skilled kitchen and other restaurant professionals.
"Since (Hurricane Katrina), we've gotten somewhere north of 400 brand new restaurants," said McPhail. "So, there is a huge need for good, talented staff and great cooks and culinarians."
Chef John Besh also said education is key to preserving Cajun and Creole Cuisine.
"Passing it on to the next generation and having an institution founded, specifically for that, is just crucial," said Besh.
The University of New Orleans, Tulane University and Delgado Community College are partners in the venture. Martin said she hopes the school would be up and running by spring 2016.
The sale to the Culinary and Hospitality Institute has been approved by both the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans and is subject to the Culinary and Hospitality Institute's title and environmental due diligence, officials said. The closing of the sale is projected to take place within the next 60 days.
The sale to the Culinary and Hospitality Institute has been approved by both the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans and is subject to the Culinary and Hospitality Institute's title and environmental due diligence. The closing of the sale is projected to take place within the next 60 days.
Another bidder, the New Orleans-based Launch Pad, proposed turning the building into collaborative workspace for artists, including film makers and fashion designers. Launch Pad said it had lined up enough tenants to fill about 60 percent of the 93,000 square feet of space in the building.
-- with reporting by Paul Murphy