11 things to know about the Four Seasons hotel development

Posted on: May 29 2018 | Posted in: Latest News

Posted May 29, 2018 at 12:04 PM | Updated May 29, 2018 at 03:00 PM

Woodward Design + Build

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

Work has officially started on the $465 million renovation of the former World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. The building will reopen in two years as a Four Seasons Hotel and Residences.

The project, helmed by Woodward Interests and Carpenter & Company Inc., includes 335 hotel rooms and 92 residences, which will occupy the upper 13 floors of the building, as well as more than 106,000 square feet of new construction to house a range of amenities and facilities supporting the building. The project also includes an additional $33 million parking garage.

Leaders with Woodward Design + Build, co-contractor on the project, recently sat down with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune to give an update on the project. Here are 11 highlights from the talk.

Crews broke ground in late April.

Construction is underway at the site of the former World Trade Center. Right now, the focus is on demolition work needed to allow crews to transport materials and workers up and down the 33-story building, said Paul Flower, an equity investor and chairman and CEO of Woodward Design + Build, which is co-developing the project with Carpenter & Company Inc. Crews are currently focused on installing a $25 million elevator, which will be used during the construction process.

The project is backed by local investors.              

In addition to Woodward CEO Paul Flower, the project’s list of local equity investors includes:

  • Lee Jackson, CEO of Jackson Offshore Operators, which is based in Harvey.
  • Sherry Leventhal, a retired real estate attorney and vice chair of Tulane University’s board of administrators.
  • Robert Merrick, chairman and CEO of local real estate firm Latter & Blum Inc.
  • Henry Coaxum Jr., president of Coaxum Enterprises Inc. and a local McDonald's franchisee. 

The photos above and below show what the lobby of and entrance to the former World Trade Center look like now.

The design includes a grand ballroom with river views.

The design includes a new curved, five-story wing that would start at the side of the building facing the Hilton New Orleans Riverside and extend over the adjacent railway. The other side will have a slightly smaller, two-story addition, which will eventually front the new Canal Street ferry terminal.

The new five-story wing makes space for a loading bay and mechanical space on the lower levels and a grand and junior ballroom, restaurant, fitness room and rooftop pool on the upper levels. The two-story add-on will include the entrance to a planned museum and attraction, and a ground-level restaurant and outdoor dining area.

The new wings will have glass siding overlooking Spanish Plaza and the Mississippi River.

It will also have a rooftop pool.

Nearly all of the downtown New Orleans hotel renovations completed in recent years have involved the addition of a rooftop pool. The Four Seasons will be no exception.

The pool will be on the rooftop of the new curved wing addition, located on the top floor next to the planned restaurant.

Plans also call for a museum and observation deck.

Project leaders say the concept for the on-site museum is still in its early stages, but they do know it will highlight New Orleans culture. The museum will have a ground-level entrance on the ferry terminal side of the building, separate from the hotel and residential entrances on Convention Center Boulevard.

From there, visitors will be able to buy a ticket and step on an express elevator that will take them to a rooftop observation deck. The deck will have an indoor and outdoor area. The outdoor observation area will be encircled by a glass wall.

A landscaped plaza will front Canal Street.

The design includes a 1,000-square-foot “outdoor restaurant” that overlooks a garden and a 2,700-square-foot outdoor dining and event space. There will also be a plaza on the north side of the building. The renderings include a lot of landscaping and a fountain or two.

Flower noted the Bernardo de Galvez equestrian statue that currently sits in the plaza (pictured below) will be removed and put in storage for the duration of construction. It will be returned to the plaza once construction is complete, but will shift about 60 feet toward Canal Street.

As previously reported, the Four Seasons development team will be working closely with the city to re-envision the plaza area at the foot of Canal Street as the city begins work on a new $27 million ferry terminal. Demolition work and construction of the new terminal is expected to begin in September.

Two Riverfront streetcar stops will be out of service during construction.

Starting in May, the Riverfront streetcar, which runs along the former World Trade Center building, will be partially out of service, no longer running upriver to the Poydras Street and Julia Street stops. Crews will be working in coming months to drive piles to support the building’s new wings near and around the railway.

The tracks won’t be entirely shut down. Flower said the development group is coordinating with the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad to ensure those trains continue to run on time throughout construction. Crews will remove and replace cranes and other pile-driving equipment in order to allow trains to pass, he said.

No road closures are anticipated.

Lane Louque, vice president of operations at Woodward Design + Build, said the parking lane on the Canal Street-bound portion of Convention Center Boulevard between Canal Street and Poydras Street will be blocked off to allow cranes, trucks and other equipment to access and park at the site. But Louque said there are no plans close the road to traffic at any point during the construction.

The building will be lit up at night.

Developers are putting an emphasis on designing the exterior lighting of the building. In addition to ambient lighting throughout the outdoor dining and lobby entrance areas at night, the building will have façade uplights that will highlight its unique cross shape.   

The antenna is staying.

The former World Trade Center building, designed by noted architect Edward Durell Stone, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 2014, meaning developers had to get their plans approved by the National Park Service before they could move forward.

Bill Hoffman, president of Woodward Interests LLC, Woodward’s real estate development arm, said the government required the antennae, which is no longer functioning, remain in place in order keep the integrity of the historic design intact. Another feature that must stay? The metal blind-like venting that covers the windows along the length of the tower, an energy-saving feature before the time of energy-saving glass. 

Renderings of the interior design of the hotel lobby (see above and below) appear to riff off those exterior window coverings, with blind-like structures divvying up the bar and common spaces.

The Four Seasons is slated to open in 2020.

Developers are planning a 30-month construction window, with a targeted opening date sometime in the latter half of 2020.