New Orleans City Council to introduce new Bourbon Street noise ordinance March 27

March 18th, 2014

By Richard A. Webster, | The Times-Picayune

The New Orleans City Council is set to introduce a new ordinance dealing with sound levels on Bourbon Street at its March 27 regular meeting, expecting to bring one part of what has been a long and contentious debate closer to a resolution.

The announcement was made at Monday’s Housing and Human Needs Committee after the city’s sound expert, David Woolworth, presented his preliminary recommendations. They included a hard cap on legal noise levels on Bourbon Street and a requirement that sound measurements be taken from the doorway of the nightclub accused of exceeding that limit – not in the middle of the street as done under current law.

Woolworth suggested that new legislation be introduced in April but Councilwoman Stacy Head said she wanted something ready by next week. Most people involved with the issue are “moving in the same direction,” towards Woolworth’s recommendations, and it is time to “put pen to paper and draft an ordinance we can then start debating,” Head said.

This will be the council’s second attempt in the past three months at changing the current law. It introduced a more expansive proposal in December that would have changed decibel limits in the entire French Quarter as well as how sound would have been measured throughout the city.

Head and Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer withdrew that proposal after widespread opposition and said they would narrow their focus to just Bourbon Street.

The new ordinance will be designed to bring clarity to the current law, which is too vague and difficult to enforce, Woolworth said.

Presently, the legal sound limit on Bourbon Street is 10 decibels above the ambient noise level, or 60 decibels, whichever is higher. Sixty decibels is equivalent to the noise level made by normal conversation, according to the University of Wisconsin. Under current law, the measurements are taken 25 feet from the source. That places the person taking the measurement in the middle of the street making it virtually impossible to determine which music club is exceeding the allowable limit, Woolworth said.

In an August 2013 study, Woolworth recommended a limit of 91 decibels on Bourbon Street and said his new proposal will be in that “ballpark,” though he is still in the process of collecting data and public input. At 91 decibels, the noise is equivalent to the sound a truck or bus passing 10 feet away, and it’s eight times as loud as normal conversation.

Woolwoth called the 91 decibel proposal “conservative” and cautioned both sides in the debate to be reasonable with their demands.

“There might be negotiations (on the decibel limit) with people pushing and pulling but if people push and pull in equal amounts we’ll be right back where we started,” Woolworth said.

Over the past several weeks, Woolworth has held five public meetings through the French Quarter Management District that included four “sound walks” where he demonstrated on Bourbon Street how noise was measured.

Palmer said she requested that the district, a state agency created to handle quality of life issues in the French Quarter, help oversee the drafting of a new ordinance because it is required to follow public meeting laws and its board includes representatives from every business and resident organization in the Vieux Carre.

French Quarter resident Nathan Chapman, who favors the lowering of decibel limits, told the council that “long-standing watchdog organizations” such as French Quarter Citizens and Vieux Carre Property Owners Residents and Associates could not support the current process or a new ordinance as long as it involved the district.

“The process I’ve personally encountered since this past summer in my multiple dealings with the French Quarter Management District were hostile at best and slanderous at worst,” Chapman said.

The district opposed the December ordinance favored by French Quarter Citizens and VCPORA, both of which resigned from the agency’s board in February.

Chapman requested that Woolworth meet with the neighborhood groups and their own sound experts so they could discuss his recommendations and negotiate the specifics of new legislation.

After the two neighborhood organizations resigned, Palmer said she called their presidents and offered to arrange private meetings with Woolworth.

Chapman said “a meeting is not the same thing as sitting down to negotiate.”

Armstrong International Airport Closes 2013 on a High Note – Over 9.2 Million Passengers Served

March 13th, 2014

(NEW ORLEANS, LA) – For the fourth consecutive year, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport has experienced an amazing increase in passenger volume. According to the 2013 statistical summary for enplanements and deplanements, the Airport moved 9,207,636 passengers in 2013, which makes for an 18% increase over the 7,787,373 passengers in 2009.  The 7.1% increase in 2013 is credited in large part to the fact that the New Orleans Region continues to be a top flight destination for leisure, conventions and business.

Today, the millions of passengers traveling from New Orleans can select one of eleven airlines presently operating on three (3) concourses at the Airport for their air travel needs. They are: Air Tran Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, jetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines and international carriers/operators Air Canada and Spirit Airlines and Vacation Express, operated through Aero Mexico, are the newest airlines to begin service into New Orleans. New non-stop destinations added to the New Orleans line-up last year included Cancun, Mexico and Austin, Texas.  Key West, Florida and Trenton, NJ were also announced but the airlines subsequently decided to cease all commercial flight operations at those locations. New Orleans presently serves 42 non-stops. Of the 42 non-stop markets from New Orleans, 32 saw increases in capacity in 2013 over 2012. Southwest Airlines continues to be the volume leader at Armstrong International with 33% of the passenger volume. Southwest recently announced San Diego as their latest non-stop addition starting April 8, 2014. Alaska Airlines will begin non-stop direct service to Seattle on June 12, 2014, bringing the total number of airlines serving the New Orleans Market to twelve (12). A new international destination will be added to a choice of direct international destinations from New Orleans when begins their new summer seasonal service to Montego Bay, Jamaica. They will be adding additional flights to Cancun for their 2014 summer seasonal service as well.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “This is further proof of the growing demand for service in the New Orleans region as we continue to build a world-class airport. We will continue to work with the New Orleans Aviation Board, regional leaders and industry stakeholders to keep the momentum going.”

“The New Orleans Aviation Board (NOAB) with the support of Mayor Landrieu has worked very hard to increase air service to our market. We are committed to maintaining the service we presently have and to adding new carriers and destinations when the opportunity avails itself,” said NOAB Chairwoman Cheryl Teamer.

“According to latest available federal data,  Armstrong Airport was 8.2% up month ending November in 2013 while across the nation airports saw an average decrease of 2.7%,” said Airport Director of Aviation Iftikhar Ahmad. “This gap makes for than 10% positive lead by New Orleans with the rest of the nation.”

For more information about flight service at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, visit the airport website,

Starwood Hotels’ Aloft brand continues explosive growth with adaptive re-use project in New Orleans

March 5th, 2014

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. announced that its leading-edge Aloft brand will debut in New Orleans in 2015, following the completion of an adaptive re-use project. The historic building, located at 225 Baronne Street, will be transformed into a sleek new Aloft Hotel in the city’s central business district. Owned by 225 Baronne Complex LLC, an entity of HRI Properties, and managed by HRI Lodging, Aloft New Orleans Downtown will feature 188 spacious, loft-like rooms, forward-thinking technology and a lively, social atmosphere.

“The energy of Aloft is a perfect match for the vibrant city of New Orleans, offering travelers the opportunity to enjoy modern design and innovative programming right at the heart of the city,” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President, Specialty Select Brands for Starwood. “The brand is enjoying phenomenal growth, fueled by the enthusiasm of savvy travelers in markets across the globe.” – To continue reading visit Travel Daily

Caesars to Sell Four Casinos to Affiliate for $2.2 Billion

March 5th, 2014

By Christopher Palmeri Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Caesars Entertainment Corp., largest owner of casinos in the U.S., will sell four properties to an affiliate for $2.2 billion, freeing up cash as the company works to restructure $24.5 billion in debt.

Caesars is selling the Bally’s, Quad and Cromwell casino-hotels in Las Vegas, as well as Harrah’s New Orleans, to the affiliate, Caesars Growth Partners LLC, according to a statement today.

To learn more, visit Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

New Orleans hotels self-impose a new room charge for tourism promotion

February 28th, 2014

Mark Waller, | The Times-Picayune

Following through on a state law passed last year allowing New Orleans hotels to impose a fee on their customers to generate money for tourism promotion and finance infrastructure projects, most of the city’s hotels have voted in favor of a new 1.75 percent room charge that will become effective April 1, tourism industry groups announced Thursday (Feb. 27).

The law required representatives of more than two-thirds of the downtown hotel room inventory to vote in favor of installing the assessment. Voting finished Feb. 21 with 95 percent voting in favor, according to an announcement from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

Most, but not all, hotels in the city will impose the charge. It will apply in all CVB-member hotels except those in eastern New Orleans.

The Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association conducted the referendum. Every hotel had a number of votes equal to the number of rooms on its property.

The convention bureau will collect .75 percent of the assessment to promote the city as a convention venue, step up international marketing and seek to attract increased air travel service to New Orleans. The tourism corporation will take .75 percent for domestic tourism marketing. The remaining .25 percent will go to city government for French Quarter infrastructure repairs and public safety.

Officials from the convention bureau and tourism marketing group had separately reported expecting their shares of the room charge to total $3 million to $4 million this year. But those numbers also considered that the revenue stream wouldn’t begin until April.

Tourism officials recently have lamented having to work with smaller budgets for promoting the city than many competing destinations.

They have said for months that they expected the assessment to pass without controversy. On Thursday they issued a series of statements applauding the results.

“Our industry is committed to smart growth and is dedicated to making New Orleans one of the top destinations in the world for meetings, events and leisure as we approach our tricentennial in 2018,” said Robert Bray, chairman of the convention and visitors bureau board and area general manager of the Marriott International hotel firm, in the announcement about the vote. “With this new funding source, our residents will benefit from a stronger economy, more attractions and a better quality of life, and our cultural economy will be strengthened, benefiting every local and all visitors.”

Darryl Berger, board chairman for the Tourism Marketing Corporation and president of The Berger Company real estate firm, called the assessment, “a critical funding mechanism to attract new meetings and convention business, international visitors, and generally grow our industry.”

“I want to thank the hotels for this visionary and unselfish gesture — to assess themselves for the good of the city,” Berger said.

He also said the measure will help maintain the French Quarter and “ensure the future of this most remarkable of American neighborhoods.”

“New Orleans has so much to offer to visitors, but we can’t rest on our laurels and expect them to keep coming, because competition from other cities is so fierce,” said David Bilbe, president of the hotel and lodging association and general manager of the Loews New Orleans Hotel. “Tourism is fought for and earned through sales and marketing each day. It doesn’t just happen.

The tourism industry accounts for an estimated 78,000 jobs in the New Orleans area. In 2012, the most recent year of available data, New Orleans reportedly attracted more than 9 million visitors who spent $6 billion in the city. Industry leaders have a goal of attracting 13 million visitors by 2018. The next visitor tally is expected to be released in March.

New Orleans Hotels Adopt Tourism Support Assessment

February 27th, 2014

Click for the full press release.

Portion of long awaited Crescent Park opens

February 25th, 2014


A portion of the long-awaited — and long-delayed — Crescent Park, a riverfront park running alongside the Bywater neighborhood, opened Monday, offering residents and visitors another vantage on the Mississippi River with walking and cycling paths, gardens, picnic areas and a dog run.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration made the unexpected announcement at an afternoon press conference after refusing for weeks to answer questions about why the park hadn’t opened.

City Council President Jackie Clarkson said last month that Landrieu’s administration told her the delay had something to do with possible soil contamination, but the city would say only that it was waiting for the contractor to finish the project.

Mary Ann Hammett, a member of the Bywater Neighborhood Association, said she raced out of the bath to make the press conference. “My legs are still trembling,” she said. “But it’s open, and we’re delighted.”

The Marigny or upriver end of the 1.4-mile-long, $30 million park is still closed. The city said it will begin work this spring on a pedestrian bridge connecting Elysian Fields Avenue to a former industrial wharf space, known as the Mandeville Shed, that’s been converted to an open-air “community and event space” with restroom facilities. It’s scheduled to be completed late this year.

At the edge of the shed is the Mandeville Ellipse, a raised grass lawn. The Mandeville Shed and Ellipse will remain closed to the public until the Mandeville Crossing pedestrian bridge is completed.

The Bywater portion that opened Monday includes a promenade for both pedestrians and bicyclists; the Piety Wharf, offering “sweeping views” of the river and skyline; and a “kickabout” section with a picnic area and a fenced-off space for dogs (which must be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and wearing ID tags).

The 20-acre park, running from Elysian Fields to Mazant Street, features the adaptive reuse of two former industrial wharves. The walking paths within the gardens are constructed with permeable asphalt paving, an environmentally friendly material that allows for rainwater penetration, thus decreasing the amount of stormwater runoff.

“Crescent Park will further anchor redevelopment and revitalization and serve as an important gathering place for residents and visitors alike,” Landrieu said. “The Mississippi River is a cherished resource, and this park will offer the public even more access to its beauty.”

Crescent Park was first envisioned in 2006 by the New Orleans Building Corp. as part of an effort to open up portions of the Mississippi riverfront that were no longer needed for maritime commerce. Despite their proximity to the river, the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods have long been cut off from riverfront access due to maritime activities, active railroad lines and the floodwall.

In 2008, the city awarded $30 million to the NOBC for the project. Construction began in late 2010. The city coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port of New Orleans, New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, and Sewerage & Water Board throughout construction.

The park was designed through a collaborative effort led by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple and a team of architects including George Hargreaves and Michael Maltzan. It was constructed by Landis Construction of New Orleans and managed by the Tobler Co. on behalf of the city.

“I especially want to give a big shout out to the leaders of the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods for their tireless dedication. Without them, this would not have been possible,” Clarkson said.

Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, “This is a great day for the residents of District C and the city of New Orleans. Crescent Park provides more public access to our riverfront and needed recreation space for our children and families. I applaud the administration and the resident-led task force who came together to make sure the design of this park complements the surrounding communities and is an asset to our neighborhoods.”

The Piety Wharf section of Crescent Park is connected to Chartres Street by the Piety Street Arch, a pedestrian footbridge that crosses over railroad lines and the floodwall. A public parking lot is located along Chartres at the foot of Piety Street.

Upon completion of the Mandeville Crossing, Crescent Park will have three entrances: the Mandeville Crossing, the Piety Street Arch and the Mazant Street Ramp.

The park will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 7 p.m. during daylight saving time.

No skateboards, motorized vehicles, Segways, motorcycles, scooters, glass containers or bottles, littering, heavy equipment or vehicles are permitted in the park. Overnight activity, cooking and swimming are prohibited.

Revamped Champions Square to host more and bigger music shows

February 25th, 2014



Champions Square is no longer just an opening act.

Saints co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc reintroduced the outdoor venue Monday as Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square, an “outdoor, boutique amphitheater” that will host touring music concerts throughout the year. The grounds, adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Center, has mostly hosted tailgating activities before Saints games since opening in 2010.

The amphitheater area at Champions Square has undergone a $2.5 million renovation to make it more attractive to touring acts. The space will be able to accommodate 5,200 people seated and 9,000 for general-admission shows.

By comparison, the Smoothie King Center — formerly the New Orleans Arena — seats about 17,800 for concerts. The University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena can seat about 9,000 for shows.

The previous stage at Champions Square wasn’t designed for touring acts, which require more space for accoutrements like video screens, said Russell Doussan, owner of Blue Deuce Entertainment, a partner in the project.

The old stage was 30 by 40 feet and its roof could hold about 15,000 pounds, Doussan said. At 101 by 65 feet, the new stage has enough room for an artist, a backing band and backup dancers. Its roof can hold 100,000 pounds, meaning it can accommodate the elaborate light displays common in touring music shows, he said.

A production area and dressing rooms also have been added as part of the renovation.

Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square will play host to 12 to 18 concerts a year, everything from classical music to classic rock, Benson LeBlanc said.

Music “is the fabric of our souls. It is the emotional glue that connects us to our memories,” she said. “My parents met at a Dr. John concert, and I just hope that people go on their first dates here.”

The first two concerts will take place on consecutive nights in August. Country music band Parmalee will open for Jake Owen on Aug. 23. R&B acts Boyz II Men, En Vogue and Keith Sweat are scheduled for Aug. 24.

The sports complex that includes Champions Square, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Smoothie King Center attracts more than 2.3 million visitors each year, Benson LeBlanc said.

“But that has been inside. We are open to the stars out here,” she said.

“This is another achievement to make New Orleans special.” RITA BENSON LEBLANC

The stage is intended as an investment that also will help New Orleans attract events like the Super Bowl. The city is now pitching itself to the National Football League for the 2018 game.

“This is another achievement to make New Orleans special,”

WWII Museum hopes to finish expansion by 2017

February 25th, 2014


BY JAQUETTA WHITE, New Orleans Advocate

The National World War II Museum in the Warehouse District has been a near constant construction zone for more than five years. As doors opened on one new building or exhibit, pilings were being driven for another.

The Solomon Victory Theater complex in 2009 was followed by the John Kushner Restoration Pavilion in 2011 and the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: Boeing Center in 2013.

What began with converting a single old building is now an operation with a $30 million operating budget, 325 employees and $300 million in assets.

“The footprint that we have is a great part of the story of what the museum has accomplished,” the museum’s executive vice president, Stephen Watson, said Monday. “We have seen tremendous growth.”

The museum is not done yet, and it is counting on the state to provide part of the financing for several planned projects.

As it prepares to welcome its 4 millionth visitor next year, it is gearing up for its final development act: two new exhibit halls, a high-rise parking garage and a privately developed hotel.

The museum hopes to conclude construction on the last of the projects in 2017, more than 15 years after opening its doors.

The National D-Day Museum opened June 6, 2000. Congress designated it the National World War II Museum three years later.

Using oral accounts and artifacts such as weapons, helmets, uniforms and medals, the museum explains why World War II was fought, how the war was won and what it means today.

Although it didn’t intend to be, the institution has become a collecting museum as people donate their own memorabilia.

Less than 5 percent of the museum’s total archive of 7,500 oral accounts, 200,000 images and 100,000 artifacts is on display, President and Chief Executive Officer Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller said.

Last year, nearly 400,000 people visited the museum. It expects that number to climb to 460,000 this year.

“It’s our goal to get this museum finished while there are still some World War II veterans alive.” Gordon ‘nick’ mueller, museum president and CEO

The museum is “responsible for telling the epic story of that war in an epic way,” Mueller said.

This year, the institution will open the first phase of Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters, a 17,000-square-foot building with exhibits documenting the global scope of the war. The second phase of that exhibit space will open in late 2015.

An education center and the final major exhibition hall, Liberation Pavilion, exploring the closing days of World War II and the conflict’s legacy, will follow in 2017.

The museum has a fundraising goal of $325 million for the projects and has raised about $201 million, Mueller said.

Before Katrina slowed the work, the museum had planned to complete construction in 2012. Now it has given itself a 2017 deadline to complete the latest expansion, Mueller said, so that remaining World War II veterans will be able to enjoy it.

Only about 1 million of the 16 million people who fought in the war are still alive. About 12,000 of those live in Louisiana. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 555 U.S. World War II veterans die each day.

“We’re trying to get to the goal line here. We’re losing our veterans across America and across this state,” Mueller said. “It’s our goal to get this museum finished while there are still some World War II veterans alive.”

The museum is seeking access to a $15 million noncash line of credit from the state to help pay for five projects, said Bob Farnsworth, senior vice president of capital programs. The money was allocated in the last legislative session as a Priority 5 in the state’s capital outlay budget. It would have to be moved to Priority 1 to be spent.

Gov. Bobby Jindal will decide whether to authorize the move. “We’re hopeful he’ll find a way to include us,” Mueller said.

The state provided seed money that helped the museum attract private investment in its early days.

Over more than a decade, the state has invested $45 million in the privately held nonprofit museum.

Museum officials are making a case for state support because of the “importance of our mission, the great amount of positive publicity it brings to the state and the significant return on investment the state receives from the museum,” Farnsworth said.

According to the museum, it was responsible for 200,000 hotel room nights last year.

About half of the state’s $15 million would go to replace a surface parking lot with a 450-space, multistory parking garage, with retail space on the bottom level, across Magazine Street from the museum.

As its visitor count climbs, the museum also is talking with a private developer about building a $30 million, 194-room hotel adjacent to the garage. The museum, which owns the property, would participate in developing the hotel, which would be “lightly themed” around the war, Mueller said.

Mueller said a hotel is in line with the museum’s needs as it hosts a growing number of private and community events outside museum operating hours.

The City Planning Commission recently approved plans for the garage.

“We’re shovel-ready with these projects,” Mueller said. “We’d be ready to break ground on the hotel once the first car drives into the parking garage.”



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