ICYMI: New development spurring CBD renaissance

New Orleans City Council member LaToya Cantrell says momentum is growing across the CBD

Rault Center(Photo: WWLTV)
Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News 7:30 p.m. CST February 24, 2015

NEW ORLEANS — The long-vacant Rault Center building at 1111 Gravier St. recently sold for $5.5 million.

The developer plans to turn the building into a 185-room boutique hotel.

The old New Orleans Public Service Incorporated building at Union and Baronne sold last month for $11.6 million.

It is also expected to be transformed into a hotel.

New Orleans City Council member LaToya Cantrell says momentum is growing across the CBD.

“Across the board, what I envision is a real tipping point that’s happening,” said Cantrell. “It’s prime real estate in the heart of the city of New Orleans and it gives me great, great confidence that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Downtown Development District Director Kurt Weigle says the recent purchases are part of a larger trend in the CBD.

“Since the end of 2012, we’ve had 2.6 million square feet that was out of commerce or underutilized space that was put back into commerce or is under construction today,” said Weigle.

City leaders say one of the things that may be fueling this mini building boom is the fact that they expect more than 1000 people to move downtown over the next 18 months.

Much of the residential development is in the Gravier-Common Street corridor.

“Basically, what we’re see happening there is the development of a brand new downtown neighborhood which is what we’re about, we’re about creating a collection of great neighborhoods downtown,” said Weigle.

“We do have more people moving to the CBD,” said Cantrell. “They’re moving into a mixed-use community. So, you can live, work, play and also worship.”

There is now hope the stars aligned for the long dormant Plaza Towers at Howard Avenue and Loyola Avenue will make a comeback.

New Orleans developer Joe Jaeger recently purchased the 45 story skyscaper.

It’s former owners spent $11 million removing asbestos and mold from the building.

“We’ve seen the growth occur along Loyola Avenue, as it relates to the Hyatt, of course,” said Cantrell. “Now we have Dave and Busters coming on line there. The redevelopment in terms of the streetcar line. Plaza Tower is the only development in my mind that holding it back and now we have someone who’s going to be responsive and responsible for bring it back, back into commerce.”

“The building suffers from having a little bit of a small footprint, compared to some others downtown, which I think has held it back,” said Weigle. “But, we’re getting to a point downtown where that matters less and less.”

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