Interim no more: Michael Harrison named NOPD superintendent

October 14th, 2014

By Jonathan Bullington, | The Times-Picayune

After spending the last eight weeks as interim chief, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has officially named Michael Harrison the New Orleans police superintendent.

The mayor made the announcement Tuesday evening during a National Night Out Against Crime event in Algiers.

“I was aware from the first national search we did who all the chiefs are around the country … and I asked because I always want to find the best in the country whether they’re there or they’re here,” Landrieu said.

“And I’m pleased to tell you Michael Harrison really rose to the level of somebody that I know is going to be a great chief.”

A 23-year NOPD veteran, Harrison last served as commander of a 7th District that covers the entirety of eastern New Orleans. Landrieu tapped him in August to take over as interim chief following the retirement of former Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who left to take a teaching job at Loyola University.

At the time, Landrieu said he would seek input on what the community wants in a chief but suggested that the job could be Harrison’s to lose.

“When I made him the interim chief, he had an opportunity to lose it,” Landrieu said. “Not only did he not lose it, he gained the trust and confidence of people throughout the city. So I felt good about it then (and) I feel great about it now.”

The mayor said he looked across the country for available candidates to lead the department, but did not go into specifics about Harrison’s competition for the job.

“Every time I think about doing something, I always have a national profile,” Landrieu said. “I always have a heart for people in New Orleans, but if I found somebody from across the country that I thought was better suited for this job, I would not have hesitated to hire them.”

“But I also wanted to give the guys inside the department the chance to prove themselves,” the mayor continued. “Commander Harrison rose up clearly and really gave me an opportunity to know that we can rise up, to basically tell the younger guys in the department: this is the department of the future.”

Harrison joined the NOPD in 1991, after a career as a munitions specialist sergeant with the Louisiana Air National Guard, which followed his 1987 graduation from McDonough 35 High School. He became a detective in the citywide narcotics unit in 1995, then a sergeant in the 8th District, before joining the Public Integrity Bureau in 2000.

He attained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix in New Orleans in 2006, and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Loyola University in 2008.

“I’m the poster child that there is no more glass ceiling,” Harrison said. “That at any moment a person who works hard, has a good work ethic, has confidence and faith and integrity, can rise. And smart people will notice that talent and then give them an opportunity to show off that talent.”

Harrison officially takes the reigns of an understaffed department struggling to combat crime and comply with a federal consent decree.

“We have a long way to go, but the New Orleans police officers in this city have done an unbelievable job under difficult circumstances,” Landrieu said. “I am asking the chief to double down on the critical partnerships with law enforcement agencies that are standing around us today (and) to lead us with the integrity and the confidence that he has shown over time.”

Hyatt House hotel coming to New Orleans

October 14th, 2014

By Jerry Limone,

Part of a 24-story office building in New Orleans’ Central Business District will be redeveloped into a Hyatt House hotel, and plans call for a second-floor skybridge connecting it with the Hyatt Regency.

The lobby of the extended-stay hotel will be located on the 11th floor, and guestrooms will be on floors 12 through 17.

Expected to open in 2015, the 194-room hotel will be located at the corner of Poydras Street and Loyola Avenue, across the street from the Poydras Street streetcar stop.

Property owner Christopher Robertson was part of the investment team that bought and redeveloped the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. That 1,193-room hotel, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina and closed for nearly six years, reopened in 2011 following a $275 million redo.

AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon Appoints Melisa Kennedy General Manager

October 14th, 2014

Names Shronette Davis, Assistant General Manager and Blake Duke, Senior Sales Manager

NEW ORLEANS, La. (August 14, 2014)The AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon, a 220-room European-inspired hotel, opening soon in the heart of downtown New Orleans, has announced the hiring of the following members to its management team:

Full Press Release.

Records show hotel planned inside 1250 Poydras

October 9th, 2014

By: Robin Shannon, Reporter

A 165-room hotel development is apparently being planned inside an existing Central Business District office building.

According to Orleans Parish Conveyance records, Poydras Properties LLC intends to convert seven floors in the middle of the 24-story 1250 Poydras building into an extended stay hotel under the Hyatt brand.

Representatives from Poydras Properties were not available for comment.

Conveyance records indicate the company executed a commercial lease agreement on Oct. 2 with Waypoint NOLA for a portion of the ground floor of 1250 Poydras and floors 11 through 17 for the hotel conversion project. The area amounts to about 134,000 square feet of space within the building.

For the full story visit, CityBusiness.

HDLC approves demolitions for hotel project

October 8th, 2014

By: Robin Shannon, Reporter

After several months of discussion and design review, the Historic District Landmarks Commission voted today to demolish two Central Business District structures to make way for a new hotel and restaurant project.

HW Real Estate Development Corp. of Chicago wants to build a 138-room hotel with a restaurant on an L-shaped lot that faces Julia Street on one end and Baronne Street at the other. The development wraps around an existing two-story residence on Julia Street and a four-story building on the corner of Baronne and Julia.

The HDLC unanimously approved a developer’s request to bring down a covered parking shed and another two-story building to make way for the project. The proposal now moves on to the City Council for final approval.

For the full story visit, CityBusiness.

New Orleans development team, Howard Hughes Corp. among companies vying for Convention Center riverfront project

October 8th, 2014

By Katherine Sayre, | The Times-Picayune

A New Orleans-based team of developers, two national companies and a Miami group are competing to transform 47 acres of unused land on the Mississippi River owned by the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center into a hotel, shopping, residential and entertainment district.

Two other companies have applied to build only a hotel at the site, the main component of the Convention Center’s plans for the area upriver from the Crescent City Connection.

Earlier this year, the Convention Center issued a “request for interest” from developers in hopes of luring up as much as $1 billion in private investment to create a space that attracts more conventions along with locals.

President and CEO Bob Johnson said the convention center asked for a basic application from developers; the next step will be seeking specific proposals, including visual renderings, from each team.

The companies seeking to be the “master developer” for the project are:

Johnson said two companies applied to develop only the full-service hotel component, part of an effort to compete with other convention facilities around the country with a connected anchor hotel. Those groups are:

  • RIDA Development Corp.: A Houston-based company undergoing an expansion of its hotel development efforts in the U.S. and around the world, according to the company’s website.
  • Omni Hotels & Resorts: A Dallas-based hotel company. Omni’s properties include hotels adjacent or attached to convention centers in Dallas, Nashville, Fort Worth and San Diego.

Johnson said the teams will be ranked by staff along with board members, and the convention center will begin negotiations for a long-term lease with the top-ranked group. He said he hopes to have negotiations begun by the start of next year.

He said the companies are not responding to a specific request-for-proposals. Instead, the said, the center is looking for developers’ ideas, for a hotel, retail and other components, such as entertainment, apartments or condos.

“I’m confident that we will be able to come to terms with one of the groups that have expressed an interest,” Johnson said.

If for some reason negotiations fail with the first group, Johnson said, the center will move on to the second-ranked group.

The convention center has about $170 million — from a combination of bonds, cash reserves and state capital outlay money — to pursue its ambitious expansion goals, including planned construction along Convention Center Boulevard to make it more pedestrian friendly and infrastructure work to prepare the vacant land for development.

New Orleans officials prepping for Ebola, hold first meeting

October 6th, 2014

By Jaquetta White  The Advocate

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, joined by senior aides from his administration as well as first responders and officials from Louis Armstrong International Airport and the Port of New Orleans, convened his first emergency preparedness meeting Monday morning to walk through the city’s response plan should the Ebola virus be reported locally.

The meeting, held at City Hall, lasted about an hour and a half and included representatives from the city’s health department, local hospitals and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The meeting comes as a hospital in Dallas is treating a man with infected with the virus. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed in the United States with Ebola, is in critical condition. Duncan traveled from Liberia, the epicenter of the outbreak, to Dallas last month.

The current Ebola epidemic, affecting multiple countries in West Africa, is the largest in history. About half the people who contracted Ebola in the current outbreak have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

No cases have been reported in Louisiana. Landrieu said the meeting was called in the “unlikely event” that that changes.

As part of the response plan, the health department will begin visiting urgent care centers and other clinics throughout the city this week to make sure that medical personnel know how to spot and respond to people who might be infected with the virus.

Dardenne still pushing tourism money from state budget

October 5th, 2014

By Mark Ballard –  The Advocate

It has become almost a symbol of fall in Louisiana, like raw oysters and the sweet-smelling smoke from a burning cane field.

Admittedly not as romantic but just as sure a sign are harried state employees putting the finishing touches on their agency’s proposal for how to spend taxpayers’ dollars during the upcoming fiscal year. It’s the first step in a long process that ends with the governor’s signature sometime around July 1.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne marks the season, as he has since taking office in 2010, with his traditional labor to change an accounting policy that strips money from tourism advertising and uses it for operating tourism-related events and attractions.

As lieutenant governor, Dardenne oversees the state’s Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. He’s also running for governor in 2015.

The tourism budget is funded by .003 of every penny of state sales tax collections. It raises about $23 million every year. Under the law that was passed in 1990, the money that accumulates in the Louisiana Tourism Promotion District fund can be used only to “promote tourism.”

Dardenne says the definition means the money is dedicated to running the Office of Tourism and the advertising that entices tourists. Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Legislature counter that the money should help fund operations for events and attractions that bring in the tourists, like the Bayou Country Superfest and the occasional NFL Super Bowl.

A couple years ago, Paul Rainwater, who at the time was commissioner of administration and Jindal’s chief financial guy, said the money leverages Louisiana’s attractions and events, and therefore, the spending is consistent with tourism’s goals.

Dardenne says the drop in money for advertising caused by the policy requires him to ratchet back buys for print ads and television commercials. Last year’s version featured zydeco music over a collage of dance halls, Louisiana musicians of various genres, and ubiquitous Cajun and Creole dishes. Television spots soon will start running in the spring for the summer vacation season — probably on a reduced schedule — in markets like Memphis, Tennessee; Denver; Dallas; Houston; San Antonio; Austin, Texas; Chicago; and Atlanta.

The Louisiana Tourism Promotion District marketing fund picked up $24.2 million from the sales tax dedication. Roughly half — about $12.3 million — was scooped up to pay for operational expenses for events and attractions in the current fiscal year.

That’s this year; next fiscal year might be worse because BP payments run out. Dardenne had been using the BP money to cover the advertising hole created from diverting the sales tax money.

Dardenne argues: If these events and attractions are so important to driving business to Louisiana, then the state should pay for them directly — out of the state’s general fund, from where the money that pays regular state operations comes.

Last week, the Louisiana Tourism Promotion District, members of which are industry and government professionals charged with overseeing the tourism’s dedicated sales tax revenues, voted to do just that: fund the favored tourism venues — such as $418,500 for the Bayou de Famille attraction in Jefferson Parish and $948,112 for the Essence Festival in New Orleans — from the general fund and not from the tourism promotion fund.

When asked if the Jindal administration backs paying out of the general fund or continuing to use the tourism promotion money, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols wrote Friday in an email: “Special events like the Essence Festival and Bayou Country Superfest attract thousands of tourists to our state. These are promotional opportunities that are good for Louisiana and have a positive impact on tourism and tax revenue.”

If operational expenses are not moved to the general fund, Dardenne says he will have to shave advertising overseas. Tourists from Canada and Europe — mostly France, Germany and Great Britain — stay longer and spend more. That international market is growing for Louisiana and needs nurturing, he said.

All that sounds good, but the realities are that the state, once again, expects to take in $1 billion or so less next fiscal year than the $25 billion that government services cost this fiscal year, so something has to give.

Dardenne argues that tourism is more investment than constituency. In 2013, the state drew 27.3 million visitors who spent $10.8 billion that generated $807 million in state tax revenues and employed about 210,000 Louisiana residents.

“It’s not a question of changing the law, it’s a matter of persuading the governor and the Legislature,” Dardenne said.

Mark Ballard is editor of The Advocate Capitol news bureau. His email address is

NOLA hotel activity moves from buying to building

October 3rd, 2014

By: Robin Shannon, Reporter CityBusiness

After a roughly two-year buying spree that saw hotel investors paying unprecedented prices in the New Orleans area, the focus has started to shift toward new development and improvements to existing properties.

But even with the surge in activity, the local market still trails the pace of other tourist destinations in adding new hotel rooms to its inventory.

A number of new projects are either in the planning stages or under construction, while owners of existing hotels are pumping millions of dollars into improvements and additions to their properties, all in an effort to capitalize on steady increases in occupancy, room rates and operating revenue across the city.

“There really hasn’t been a better time to put capital into assets,” said Adam Lair, a consultant for the hospitality industry research company HVS. “There are a lot of brands that want to be in the market, and many property owners are seeing a chance to spruce up an existing facility to attract a more high profile brand.”

Two projects that fit that mold are the $12 million conversion of the old Cotton Exchange Hotel in the Central Business District to an AC Hotel, and the ongoing $7 million renovation at the Ambassador Hotel to attract a new operator.

For the full story visit CityBusiness.

Runway closures for electrical work will shift airplane traffic at Louis Armstrong Airport

October 2nd, 2014

By Mark Waller, | The Times-Picayune

Louis Armstrong International Airport is alerting neighbors that electrical work on the airfield will produce changes in flight frequency in October and early November. It’s part of a $12 million project that includes replacing the lighting along the runways, according to a statement from the airport.

The north-south runway will be closed until Oct. 12, the announcement said, meaning flights will use the east-west runway and neighbors east of the airport might notice an increase in air traffic.

The east-west runway will close from Oct. 20 to Nov. 2, sending all the flights to the north-south runway and leading neighbors north and south of the airport to see more planes overhead.

The airport statement described the work as a “critical airfield safety project.” It said the project is funded with Federal Aviation Administration grants, state aviation grants and the airport’s budget.



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