Construction underway on Rampart Street extended-stay hotel

Posted on: January 12 2016

By: Robin Shannon, Managing Editor, CityBusiness

Contractors have completed demolition of a former electrical supply shop at the edge of the French Quarter and have started construction on a 200,000-square-foot extended-stay hotel that will occupy the space.

HRI Properties is building a $30 million, 207-room Homewood Suites hotel at 317 N. Rampart St.. The four-story building will also include a 105-space parking garage.

Josh Collen, vice president of development for HRI Properties, said the builder, Palmisano Contractors, was granted a notice to proceed just before the end of the year. He said preliminary site work is underway in preparation for the driving of pilings.

The project, which will occupy an entire block of Rampart Street between Conti and Bienville Streets, involved the demolition of a non-historic commercial building once occupied by Wm. B. Allen Supply Co. The electronics distributor moved its operation to Harahan last year prior to HRI buying the property. The hotel is slated to open next April.

Collen said HRI is hoping to tap into a new client market stemming from the opening of the two new billion-dollar hospital facilities on Canal Street in Mid-City. The medical corridor that includes the recently opened University Medical Center and a new Veterans Affairs Hospital under construction is expected to prompt a larger trend of extended-stay developments.

Collen added that the hotel would act as an extension of the company’s work at the former Iberville public housing complex just across the street. The company is involved in a $600 million public-private partnership to redevelop the former housing complex into a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood. The first two phases recently opened to leasing.

In an effort to move the project forward, HRI secured a payment in-lieu of taxes, or PILOT agreement, in August through the New Orleans Industrial Development Board, a public body that weighs the merits of tax breaks and other incentives to spur economic development.

HRI Properties will pay a base property tax payment of $50,000 annually during the 12-year term of the agreement. The current assessed value of the land is $84,990, according to the Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office.

As part of the arrangement with the IDB, the company has forged a partnership with economic development nonprofit Urban Strategies to create a hospitality career initiative targeting former, current and future Iberville residents that will give them the opportunity to work at the hotel. The organization is creating a job readiness and customer service training program to prepare Iberville residents to land one of the 96 permanent jobs created by the hotel.

Collen said HRI’s in-house lodging wing, which will run the hotel, will provide preferential hiring for those positions while offering on-the-job training. He said the jobs will have a minimum wage of $10.55 per hour, in line with the city’s new living wage.

HRI is also partnering with local building trades and labor unions on a project labor agreement to hire local union workers as part of construction of the hotel. That agreement will work in conjunction with a 35 percent requirement to hire disadvantaged business enterprises to work the project.