Tricentennial Consortium to stay in World Trade Center bid process despite loss of key funding

Advocate file photo -- The New Orleans World Trade Center and Aquarium of the Americas is seen from the west bank of the Mississippi River.
Advocate file photo -- The New Orleans World Trade Center and Aquarium of the Americas is seen from the west bank of the Mississippi River.

Despite losing a major source of funding, an alliance of tourism industry leaders said Tuesday that it will not withdraw its proposal to demolish the World Trade Center building as part of the city’s bid selection process for redevelopment of the site.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veto of a measure authorizing the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to issue bonds to finance expansion projects “temporarily removed one potential source of funding for our proposal,” the Tricentennial Consortium said in a statement Tuesday. But the group, made up of leaders from several tourism organizations, said it will look for money elsewhere.

House Bill 516 provided the legal and financial foundation for a series of construction projects and infrastructure improvements along and around Convention Center Boulevard, including the consortium’s plan to demolish the iconic, X-shaped office building at the foot of Canal and Poydras streets. The group wants to build a signature structure, akin to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, at the site.

Jindal vetoed the measure Friday, arguing that construction projects using convention center issued, tax-free bonds could count against the state debt limit.

“… It is important to remember that these large capital projects are usually done in phases utilizing multiple funding sources,” the consortium said. “To this end, our industry leaders will be meeting further in the next few weeks to prioritize the various project components, reexamine the bond debt issue raised by the governor and develop an alternate approach and explore other potential sources of funding.”

The Tricentennial proposal is one of three plans for redeveloping the World Trade Center site that the city is considering following a request for proposals.

Completed proposals were due to the city in April and were released for public review last month. A five-member selection committee will begin meeting in July to discuss the three projects. The respondents will be evaluated on their qualifications, performance history, financial capacity and on the project’s financial feasibility.

The other plans, from Gatehouse Capital Corp. and James H. Burch LLC, propose leaving the World Trade Center intact. Both bidders want to convert the building into a mixed-use hotel and residential development. The Burch project also includes room for office space.