New Law expected to get New Orleans WTC project moving again

NEW ORLEANS — Redevelopment of the iconic World Trade Center building in New Orleans has been a series of starts and stops since the building closed its doors in 2010.

Plans to turn the aging 33-story office tower on the Mississippi River at the foot of Canal Street into a Four Seasons Hotel and luxury condominiums stalled last year.

One losing bidder filed a lawsuit, claiming city officials violated state law in how they went about selecting a contractor for the $360 million project.

This week, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a new state law that could get the project moving again.

The new law expedites the timeline for civil trials and appeals for anyone suing to protest a public benefit corporation lease.

The development team of Carpenter & Co. and Woodward Design + Build beat out four other teams, including a group called Two Canal Street Investors to lease and redevelop the WTC.

Two Canal argued that its proposal should have been chosen because it offered the city the most money in lease payments.

A trial on the lawsuit was expected in October.

Carpenter-Woodward spokesman Greg Beuerman now expects a judge to hear the case in August.

“The new law essentially gives us the opportunity to move this project forward faster,” Beuerman. “It is frivolous litigation, there’s no doubt about it. For the fifth place finisher to file suit, at the very last minute, speaks volumes about their motives.”

Local business leaders have been pushing for a quick resolution to the lawsuit.

The Four Seasons project is expected to generate $15 million a year in tax revenue and create up to 450 permanent jobs.

“I think there’s obviously the financial importance, but from a symbolic standpoint, the World Trade Center project is going to anchor Canal Street which is really the Champs-Elysees of New Orleans,” said GNO, Inc. President Michael Hecht.

City leaders said they hoped to have the WTC project completed in time for the city’s tri-centennial in 2018.

With all the delays, that deadline may be difficult to meet.

“The developers have done everything they can up to the point of starting construction,” Beuerman said. “The developers are ready to move. There is a delay. There’s no question about it.”

An attorney for TCSI did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

You can read the full article here.