Jaclyn Kelley / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS, La. -- The South Market District proposal is the largest mixed-use development proposal in the city's history.

It has been three years in the making, but construction on the first phase of the $200 million project is now underway.

The Paramount at South Market is just one part of a multi-phase project that will transform empty parking spaces into apartments and shops.

'It's going to bring life back into this section of the central business district as it once was in the 1800's,' said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.

The $48.4 million building is phase one of the plan and it is also one of the first downtown projects coming out of the ground, as new construction.

'We are rapidly moving through the stock of buildings that we have to redevelop, so finding ways to do new construction is very important to us right now,' said Kurt Weigle the president and CEO of the Downtown Development District.

The five-story building will take up one full block nestled between Girod, Lafayette, O'Keefe and Rampart Streets. It will include apartments, restaurants and retail space, and developers say the project will be completed by the end of 2014.

'We are moving in the right direction and it is always good to show people progress,' said Cantrell. 'This is a sign of that progress.'

Weigle says since Hurricane Katrina the number of people living downtown has more than doubled and he says this design was built with that in mind.

'When we look at what they want in a place, they want a place that is walkable. A place where they can basically live their whole life without a car,' said Weigle.

The Paramount, which is located right off the Loyola Streetcar line, will have 209 apartments, a parking garage, and 22,000 square feet of retail space with enough room for sidewalk cafes.

Once the entire project is finished, there will be total of 600 apartments and 170,000 square feet of retail space added to the heart of the Central Business District.

'The retailers have not been disclosed as of yet, but it will be of course quality and also will be bring in small businesses,' said Cantrell.

One thing is for sure though, this new project promises to breath new and vibrant life back into the city.

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