New Orleans seeking World Trade Center redevelopment proposals

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 8, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 8 at 7:41 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- The new year brings a new effort to redevelop one of the most valuable pieces of riverfront property in the south.

The city of New Orleans is now accepting proposals from developers who want to keep the World Trade Center and others who want to tear it down.

"I think good, entrepreneurial ideas will rise out of this ability to decide on the gamut of opportunities as opposed to you can only do this or you can only do that," said Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant.

In its day, the iconic building at the foot of Canal Street was the hub of global commerce in New Orleans.

Former Lt. Governor Jimmy Fitzmorris was on the City Council when the building, designed by renowned architect Edward Durell Stone, opened as the International Trade Mart in 1967.

"A lot of people came to this building from all over the world," said Fitzmorris. "We had an opportunity to meet those people and visit with them and talk with them about ideas of exchanging business."

The counsels general, shipping companies and rotating "Top of the Mart" are now long gone, and the trade center that still helps define the city skyline is vacant.

Grant said there is already less than a week after the RFP went out.

"We've talk to a number of people who have expressed an interest in both concepts," said Grant. "I expect to get some very robust responses in both regards. That will allow us to evaluate and pick the best opportunity."

New Orleans developer Pres Kabacoff is considering the opportunity.

"We're going to take a look at the RFP and see whether we can add value," said Kabacoff. "Our goal would be to renovate and keep it."

But Kabacoff admits the existing building is "inefficient for renovation," but says there are tax incentives available for redeveloping historic structures such as the WTC.

"What's important is that it either be renovated and fixed up and made usable -- hotel, residential, entertainment, something along that line -- or if it doesn't work you take it down and do something else," said Kabacoff. "Be very cautious. Don't just take it down without a future plan, because you need to respect history. I'm not saying we're stuck in history, but if you're going to do something in that site, it ought to be better than what we have and you ought to know how to finance it."

Fitzmorris said despite his fond memories of the WTC and its place in developing New Orleans as an international marketplace, it may be time to find a new purpose for the property.

"I would think, if somebody asked for my opinion, I would think that this building would have to be torn down and a whole new structure built to give it a new evidence of life and development," said Fitzmorris.

The city hopes to have several proposals to chose from within 90 days.

 

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