The Louisiana House unanimously approved legislation Tuesday (April 26) granting the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center new taxing authority to expand upriver with a 1,200-room hotel and entertainment district.
The bill state Rep. Walt Leger sponsored would open the way for the Convention Center to use tax increment financing, typically with a special sales tax that pays for infrastructure for a new commercial development.
The New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority Economic Growth and Development District was created by state lawmakers last year but without any taxing authority.
Convention and tourism industry leaders envision a mixed-use development on 47 acres of vacant land upriver from the center anchored by a hotel with meeting space, between the Pontchartrain Expressway and the Market Street power plant.
The center plans to spend up to $175 million on infrastructure and improvements on Convention Center Boulevard to attract up to $1 billion in private investment in a 1,200-room hotel, condos and apartments, restaurants and entertainment. New Orleans developers Joe Jaeger and Darryl Berger and Riverwalk owner The Howard Hughes Corp. are in talks with the Convention Center to be master developer on the project.
The center's general manager, Bob Johnson, said there are currently no plans to use the proposed taxing authority.
Johnson said talks with the developers are ongoing, and he hopes to have an agreement settled in 60 to 90 days. The process of laying infrastructure, designing and building the anchor hotel will take three years, he said.