Rault Center to be developed into 185-room Joie de Vivre hotel in New Orleans CBD

Posted on: March 2 2015 | Posted in: Latest News

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

A Conneticut-based developer has purchased the Rault Center in the Central Business District and plans to renovate the 17-story vacant building into a Joie de Vivre brand boutique hotel.

Slumber Corners NOLA LLC, led by developer Lisa Blank, bought the tower at 1111 Gravier St. for $5.5 million in February.

Blank said the hotel will have 185 rooms, a restaurant and lounge on the ground floor, a second-floor lobby and a rooftop space.

Blank said she briefly lived in New Orleans in the 1980s and has visisted the city frequently in the years since. The hotel market in New Orleans has been competitive among buyers over the past two years. She had already made one unsuccessful bid when a broker suggested the Rault Center.

Construction is slated to begin in April and last 12 to 14 months, she said.

Other new developments in the area include real estate developers Green Coast Enterprises' plans to convert the Pythian at 234 Loyola Ave., into a mixed-use building of apartments and commercial and retail space. A hotel developer recently bought the Oil and Gas building at 1100 Tulane Ave.

"That whole city block -- there's a renaissance going on," Blank said.

The Rault Center is remembered for the 1972 fire that consumed the building, leading five trapped women to jump from a 16th-floor beauty shop onto an eight-story parking garage below. Four of the women died. Two men died in an elevator. The deadly blaze led to a state law requiring all high-rise buildings to have sprinkler systems.

The building's original developer, Joseph Rault Jr., was a prominent player in the oil and gas industry and had real estate interests in apartments, shopping centers and office centers, including the Central Business District tower. Rault died last year at age 87.

Joie de Vivre, a brand of hotel management company Commune Hotels + Resorts, has 27 hotels, mostly in California.