New Orleans World Trade Center building proposals: Five hotel brands, five approaches

December 17th, 2014

By Katherine Sayre, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

The tale of reviving the vacant former World Trade Center in downtown New Orleans is a twisted one. In the latest plot, city leaders now have five initial proposals for turning the 33-story building into a new hotel and apartments for wealthier renters.

Among the players are some big names in the New Orleans commercial real estate world and the national hospitality industry. They will submit more detailed plans early next year to a selection committee formed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.

Here is a look at each of the five development groups and what they’re proposing for the riverfront property. Select an individual proposal to learn more details:

Carpenter & Co. and Woodward Interests — Four Seasons Hotel

Two Canal Street Investors — Hotel Alessandra

Oxford Capital Group — Godrey Hotel

HRI Properties — Andaz Hotel by Hyatt

2 Canal Redevelopment LLC — Conrad Hotel by Hilton



2014 Christmas in the District’s NOLA ChristmasFest

December 8th, 2014

For more, information on NOLA Christmasfest, December 12th – 24th, please visit Press Release.



Allegiant Air Joins New Orleans Airline Roster

December 1st, 2014

New nonstop destinations break all previous records in New Orleans

(NEW ORLEANS, LA) – Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is pleased to announce that Allegiant Air will begin nonstop service from four destinations beginning early February 2015, just in time for Mardi Gras. The nonstop destinations include Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Indianapolis, IN; and Orlando-Sanford, FL.   Allegiant will operate from Concourse C.

Allegiant Air is a U.S. domestic low-cost airline owned by Allegiant Travel Co. that operates scheduled and charter service from America’s favorite small cities to world-class destinations like New Orleans. Allegiant was founded in 1997 and has been named one of America’s 100 Best Small Companies by Forbes Magazine for five consecutive years. The company operates low-cost, high-efficiency, all-jet passenger aircraft, while also offering other travel-related products such as hotel rooms, rental cars, and attraction tickets.  Travel may be booked at www.allegiantair.com.

In commemoration of Allegiant’s debut in New Orleans, the carrier is also offering local travelers the opportunity to win free* Allegiant flights for an entire year. One lucky winner and a friend will fly free from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport as frequently as once a month for a year. To enter, visit www.Allegiant.com/FreeFlights.

“We welcome Allegiant to the New Orleans market,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “This airline will play a major role in introducing our wonderful city to new visitors from even more communities across the U.S.”

“Allegiant Air is a welcomed addition to Armstrong International, and we look forward to the incremental tourism passengers they will bring to New Orleans,” said New Orleans Aviation Board Chairwoman, Cheryl Teamer. “In addition to more tourism, Allegiant’s service will offer our local community new options for travel at ultra-low costs.”

“The addition of Allegiant will allow easier access for guests to visit our great City of  New Orleans and an opportunity for our citizens to enjoy improved air service,” stated New Orleans Councilman Jared Brossett, Chair of the Transportation and Aviation Committee.

“We have been in discussions with Allegiant Air since I came to New Orleans, and we are very pleased to announce our efforts have paid off,” said Iftikhar Ahmad, Airport Director of Aviation. “This service creates new nonstop destinations for New Orleans and breaks all previous records for total nonstop destinations with 43 destinations. We look forward to their success and growth in New Orleans as their newest destination city.”

*About the free flight giveaway:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE WILL NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, 18 and older. Void elsewhere and where prohibited. Sweepstakes ends Nov. 26, 2014. Subject to complete official rules at www.Allegiant.com/FreeFlights.



Renovated hotel turns to local history for new name

December 1st, 2014

By: Robin Shannon, Reporter CityBusiness

The owners of the Ambassador Hotel on the edge of the Warehouse District are set to reopen the property in the spring under a new name following a nine-month renovation.

The 167-room boutique hotel at 535 Tchoupitoulas St. will be known as the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, according to a release from Provenance Hotels. The Portland, Oregon, company co-owns the hotel with New York-based GB Lodging.

Provenance and GB Lodging purchased the hotel from New Orleans hotelier Warren Reuther in 2013 for $15.85 million. In July, the company began a more than $7 million renovation of the hotel that includes a newly designed lobby, restaurant and bar, upgraded plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems, and a new layout and renovation of all guestrooms. Woodward Design+Build is handling design and construction.

Kate Buska, public relations director for Provenance, said the hotel’s new name is a subtle nod to the history of the structures that make up the building. Five buildings comprise the Ambassador’s layout. Three date back to the 1850s and were once used to store coffee, tobacco and other commodities.

E.J. Hart & Co. purchased the property in the 1860s and used it as a chandlery, or general wholesale business selling goods for sailing ships.

For the full story visit, CityBusiness.



Norwegian, Port of NOLA reach four-year deal

November 24th, 2014

By: Natalie Chandler, Managing Editor, CityBusiness

The Port of New Orleans and Norwegian Cruise Line have approved an agreement that will keep the company’s ships in the city for at least four more years, port president and CEO Gary LaGrange said today.

The agreement includes three one-year options, which means the cruise line could choose to stay at the port for seven more years. The agreement will keep at least one Norwegian cruise ship sailing seasonally from New Orleans through 2018 with the ability to extend the agreement through 2021.

Norwegian’s previous three-year agreement, which allowed it to homeport the 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit in New Orleans since 2010, expired Oct. 31.

The 2,340-passenger Norwegian Dawn is scheduled to arrive at the port to begin its cruise season Friday. The season ends in April.

NCL has homeported cruise ships in New Orleans annually since 2003, offering western Caribbean cruises seasonally to destinations including Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Santo Tomas De Castilla, Guatemala; and Belize City, Belize.

Industry analysts say that although Royal Caribbean decided earlier this year to pull out from New Orleans to enter the Asian market, the city remains popular with cruise lines.



Bigger hotel brands jump into latest competition

November 20th, 2014

BY JAQUETTA WHITE, The Advocate

The city will have its pick of nearly a dozen proposals from local and national developers as it tries once again to redevelop the long-vacant former World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street.

A call for qualified applicants to turn the building into a “first-class commercial and/or mixed-use project” drew 11 responses by last week’s deadline, including one from the same team that was picked to develop the building last year after a previous request for proposals. The city subsequently ended negotiations with that team after failing to come to an agreement with the developers on the building’s value.

The latest proposals were made public Wednesday.

All of the proposals present a plan for a hotel or a combined hotel and apartments. The submissions come from well-known national hotel brands such as Four Seasons and Hard Rock as well as from familiar local developers, including HRI Properties, the Berger Co. and Woodward Design + Build.

The riverfront property at 2 Canal St. is widely considered to be one of the most valuable sites in New Orleans, but the city has struggled for years to find someone to redevelop the empty 1960s building, with repeated efforts coming to naught.

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The most recent attempt ended in failure in April when the team of Gatehouse Capital and Provident Realty, which a city committee selected to transform the 33-story building into a W Hotel and apartments, could not agree on financial terms with the New Orleans Building Corp., the city agency that acts as the building’s landlord.

Gatehouse and Provident had beaten out two other proposals to win the exclusive right to negotiate a lease agreement for the site with the city. Members of the team that came in second during that round also have submitted a new proposal.

The fact that this call for ideas has brought more plans to the table, including from larger and more well-known brands than those who participated in the last round, says that investors recognize the site’s value, Canal Street Development Corp. Executive Director Cindy Connick said.

“We’re more than pleased about the quality and the number of respondents to the (request for qualifications),” Connick said. “I think it’s just an indication that New Orleans is a great place for investment dollars.”

Connick said the abundance of plans to turn the former office building into a hotel and residential units reflects the market demand for attractions along the riverfront.

Unlike in 2012, when the city last sought development proposals for the site, this time only plans to redevelop the existing building were requested. Two years ago, the city imposed “no limitations as to the type of redevelopment or use of the space” and specifically welcomed demolition of the 1960s office tower as an option. A consortium of local tourist organizations and leaders proposed demolishing the building, but their plan was rejected.

The building has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Although listing on the register does not prevent demolition or place any restrictions or encumbrances on a property’s owners, it does make any income generated by the historic building eligible for certain tax incentives.

The new redevelopment plans, which must be privately financed, will be evaluated on the idea’s merit, the experience of the development team and its financial capability.

A selection committee is expected to release a “short list” of developers on Dec. 15. Those proposers then will have until Feb. 16 to submit more extensive proposals that include detailed drawings, cost projections, timelines and proposed payments to the city. Those ideas also will be presented in-person to the selection committee. The composition of the selection committee, including the number of members, has yet to be decided.

The committee will be able to select more than one project for the city to begin negotiating with, so that developers can be pitted directly against each other in the negotiation process. The city expects to select a winner by March 23, according to the initial request for qualifications.

The winning developer will enter into a lease agreement with the city for up to 99 years.



Tourist market eyed with flights to Florida, Ohio, Indiana

November 19th, 2014

BY JEFF ADELSON, The Advocate

Louis Armstrong International Airport will add direct flights to the Midwest and Florida next year through a budget-priced carrier focused on vacation destinations.

With the new Allegiant Air flights, the New Orleans airport will have nonstop flights to a total of 43 destinations, the biggest number yet, Director of Aviation Iftikhar Ahmad said.

The announcement comes as airport officials continue to pursue larger carriers and international flights, hoping to bolster the regional economy by bringing in more visitors. So far, they have racked up mostly small victories, bringing in several new low-cost airlines over the past year, including Spirit Airlines, Alaska Airlines and PeoplExpress.

The Allegiant flights will begin Feb. 5 and will offer service to Orlando, Florida; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; and Indianapolis.

There will be two flights a week to each of the new destinations.

The Orlando flights will be offered year-round starting at $45 each way, while the flights to Ohio and Indiana will be seasonal routes that operate from February through the spring, with one-way tickets starting at $85.

Airport officials have been courting Allegiant for the past four years, in part because the company aims at the vacation market rather than business travelers, Ahmad said. That fits with the city’s overall effort to lure more tourists.

Allegiant’s decision to start flights to and from New Orleans “speaks well of the city’s booming economy and its great renaissance,” Ahmad said.

Getting the company to New Orleans was largely a financial matter, and Allegiant Vice President for Business Development Brian Davis said a key factor was the halving of the airport’s per-passenger charges to airlines.

Over the past four years, that cost has dropped from about $16 to about $8. Airport officials have said that lowering those costs is key to attracting more airlines and flights to the city. The planned $500 million-plus North Terminal, which would replace the existing terminal with a more efficient facility, is a part of that effort.



Omni takes over management, re-branding of former Wyndham Riverfront Hotel

November 10th, 2014

By Katherine Sayre, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Omni Hotels & Resorts will take over management of the Wyndham Riverfront on Convention Center Boulevard after an $8 million renovation, the Dallas-based company said Tuesday.

“We are excited about the rebranding of the Riverfront New Orleans as an Omni,” Joe Jaeger, the hotel’s owner through Riverfront Lodging, LLC., said in a news release. “This is our second property to join the Omni family and we look forward to a longstanding and productive relationship.”

The 202-room hotel at 701 Convention Center Blvd. will be called the Omni Riverfront under the management agreement.

It will be the third Omni-brand hotel in New Orleans: the Omni Royal Crescent Hotel on Gravier Street in the Central Business District and the Omni Royal Orleans in the French Quarter. Jaeger is part owner in the French Quarter property.

Jaeger, a New Orleans hotelier, has a portfolio that includes Dauphine Orleans, Bourbon Orleans, The Whitney Hotel, Hotel Le Marais, and Hotel Mazarin. He is also among the developers vying for a long-term lease for the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s upriver vacant land, where the convention center hopes to see a mixed-use development anchored by a hotel.

Over the last six months, the Riverfront hotel underwent a renovation aimed at restoring a vintage and New Orleans-focused design, according to a news release. Each guest room was part of the renovation.

The hotel restaurant, previously known as 7 on Fulton, has been re-branded as Fulton St. Bistro | Bar.



The Pontchartrain Hotel sells to Chicago investment firm with plans to restore old world charm

November 10th, 2014

By Jennifer Larino, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

A Chicago real estate investment firm has purchased the storied Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles Avenue, once one of the top destinations for the rich and famous enjoying extended stays in the city. The new owner, AJ Capital Partners, plans to renovate the hotel’s 106 rooms and reopen it as a full-service property with the help of a group of local investors.

AJ Capital Partners, which announced the sale on Monday (Nov. 10), did not disclose the purchase price. IberiaBank will provide financing for the $10 million renovation.

Local backers involved in the project include Cooper Manning, the eldest son of former Saints quarterback Archie Manning and a partner at Howard Weil, a New Orleans energy investment firm.

E. Lysle Aschaffenburg built the Pontchartrain Hotel at 2031 St. Charles Ave. in 1927 as an apartment hotel. The family, which owned the property until 1987, started to convert the property to a conventional hotel in 1941. Guests included Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and President Gerald Ford.

The hotel remained home for long-term residents well into the 1990s.

Hotel management made it a full-service hotel in 2013, including re-opening The Bayou Bar on the hotel’s first floor to the public.

AJ Capital Partners CEO Ben Weprin said Manning, a close friend, urged him to pursue The Pontchartrain Hotel after visiting another one of the firm’s recently restored historic hotel properties in Chicago.

Manning recalled attending holiday dinners with his family at the hotel’s Caribbean Room, once one of the city’s well-known dining rooms.

“I went and stayed with Cooper, saw the hotel and within 60 seconds I was like ‘This is perfect,’” Weprin said. “You can’t make up that type of history. The good will associated with this hotel is tremendous. That’s really hard to find in our business.”

Weprin said his firm wants to bring the Pontchartrain’s old world charm back to life, while updating its amenities for guests.

The goal is a sort of “residential hotel” that caters to guests interested in exploring New Orleans off the beaten path, he said.

“We plan to protect its tradition, heritage and soul and are excited to reintroduce The Pontchartrain,” Weprin said.

The hotel will continue current operations until May 2015, when it will close for renovations. It will re-open in January 2016.

In addition to upgrading rooms, the restoration will include remodel and reopening of The Bayou Bar, the Caribbean Room and The Silver Whistle, a coffee shop on the ground floor of the building.

AJ Capital Partners has completed hotel projects across the country, including in Chicago, Napa Valley, Calif. and Miami.



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