The first step in a massive overhaul of the area surrounding the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has won approval from the meeting hall’s board.
The facility’s governing board last week approved a resolution to begin construction of a $65 million linear park along Convention Center Boulevard from Poydras to Henderson streets, at the center’s upriver end. The pedestrian-friendly corridor is envisioned as a way to connect the Warehouse District to the French Quarter.
Convention Center President and General Manager Bob Johnson said the finished product will be “an active green space for downtown New Orleans, to enhance the experience both for our meeting attendees and conventioneers and also the residents.”
As planned, the park will extend from the Convention Center itself onto the present Convention Center Boulevard, which would be reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction.
The project, to be funded by the center itself, must still receive approval from various city departments.
The park is part of the Convention Center District Development Project, an ambitious plan that also includes the development of 47 acres of vacant land at the upriver end of the giant meeting hall. The plan calls for a $150 million investment — drawn from the center’s reserves, bonds and an appropriation from the state — to improve infrastructure on the vacant plot, which stretches along the river from Henderson Street to Market Street.
The authority is betting that its investment would spur private developers to put up at least another $700 million to build restaurants, entertainment venues, apartments and a hotel on the site.
Before Hurricane Katrina, the land had been slated for a $450 million expansion of the Convention Center that would have added more than 500,000 square feet of exhibit space to the 1.1 million square feet the center already has. But center officials shelved that plan after the storm and eventually decided they did not need more exhibit space.
The Convention Center District Development Project would be the largest single private investment in the city since the World’s Fair in 1984, center officials said.