NEW ORLEANS -- A Dallas-based company is now preparing to negotiate a final deal to redevelop the shuttered World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.
Tuesday, a five-member city selection committee recommended Gatehouse Capital get the contract.
"At the end of the day what we want to know is can you get it done, have you gotten something like this done and will you get it done," said Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant.
The committee determined Gatehouse has the best track record and financial backing to hammer out an agreement with the New Orleans Building Corporation, the board that oversees the city owned property on the river.
Gatehouse's plan would repurpose the existing building as a new W Hotel Resort and a mix of retail and upscale condominiums.
"We simply want to execute the project, be positive, flexible, open minded partners to work with the city, the mayor, with the committee, with the tourism leaders," said Gatehouse spokesman David Garcia.
"The difference maker was the history and track record of success that Gatehouse has in developing similar projects versus the competition," said New Orleans CAO Andy Kopplin.
The company finished ahead of James Burch, LLC and the hospitality-industry backed Tricentennial group that wanted to demolish the building.
Tricentennial released a statement saying, "The (TCC), representing the New Orleans hospitality industry, remains committed to the innovative long-term re-engineering of our riverfront. Though unsuccessful in our proposal because of the city's understandable desire for more readily apparent concrete revenue streams, we will continue to take a leadership role in the development of those public spaces that will incorporate the World Trade Center building."
Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman told WWL-TV, "Tricentennial is not going away. The public space there is still the public space. This just takes two acres of the 8 acre site and says let's keep the World Trade Center in it."
City Council President Jackie Clarkson, one of three council members who serve as NOBC board members says she's interested in hearing about Gatehouse's plans for the riverfront.
"We still have to have public space even with the hotel there and that will be part of the negotiations," said Clarkson. "That's my opinion."
Kopplin said while Gatehouse's proposal was better than the others, its initial lease offer of $10 million upfront is too low and the developer needs to improve its minority hiring policy. "It remains to be negotiated and it could cause us to come back to the table if we don't see a lot of progress on those two issues," said Kopplin.
Garcia said Gatehouse will work with the city to reach an agreement on the unfinished business.
"The appropriate time to deal with it is now that we've been selected to start identifying the sub contractors and other partners in our project," said Garcia. "Our interest is in getting the deal done and as long as the payment does not kill the deal, we're more than willing to increase our offer, to be flexible in how it's structured."
According to Gatehouse, if the company reaches a final agreement with the NOBC, it hopes to begin construction on the World Trade Center by early next year. Gatehouse says it would take about two years to complete the project.
The new WTC development is expected to create up to 2500 new jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the city.