Selection committee, timeline set for World Trade Center proposal review

A selection committee has been formed to review three proposals for the future of the World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street, and officials hope to select a development team by July, Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant said Tuesday.

The committee includes Grant, who is serving as acting CEO of the New Orleans Building Corp., a public-private entity that owns the World Trade Center; Cindy Connick, executive director of the Canal Street Development Corp.; William Gilchrist, the city’s director of place-based planning; Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin; and Jeffrey Hebert, executive director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

The schedule for the selection process will be:

An initial meeting of the selection committee later this month to review the proposals.

A public presentation on the proposals to the selection committee.

A selection of the preferred development team in July.

Negotiation of the development agreement between August and November.

The committee must select from three proposals submitted for the World Trade Center building and site.

The city recently put out a request for proposals in an effort to get the vacant 33-story office tower back into commerce.

Among the goals of the RFP are the creation of a “world-class civic space,” development of “appropriate commercial uses for this highly valuable location,” directing revenue to the NOBC, drawing people to the riverfront while improving pedestrian access to the site from the Central Business District and French Quarter, enhancing the view of the river from Canal Street and creating new jobs, both permanent and temporary.

Two proposals — one from Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital Corp. and another from Virginia-based James H. Burch LLC — would see the building redeveloped as a hotel with apartments.

The $190 million Gatehouse plan envisions a W Hotel anchoring the World Trade Center building and the addition of 280 luxury apartments, with a “Tricentennial sky wheel” — a Ferris wheel — possibly being built along the riverfront. The $180 million Burch proposal would clear the first three floors to create an open-air “World Plaza,” while the rest of the building would be made up of a 550-room hotel with 88 private apartments and office space for the World Trade Center Organization and foreign consulates.

The third proposal, submitted by the Tricentennial 300 Consortium, a group of public and private agencies, calls for demolishing the tower, creating a riverfront park in its footprint and building some sort of monument.

That idea, which is estimated to cost $165 million, is tied in with proposed improvements to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Ultimately that proposal, which envisions a new park at the upriver end of the convention center site, a hotel and apartment buildings as well as a revamped Convention Center Boulevard, is partially dependent upon legislation that would allow for a joint venture between the convention center and other private groups to finance all of the work, which would cost nearly $500 million.

The city hopes to have any changes made in time for New Orleans’ tricentennial in 2018.

The selection committee will pick a proposal after reviewing four criteria: a “detailed description” of each development, qualifications and history of the respondents, financial capacity of each respondent and the financial feasibility of each project.

Noting that the financial capacity of each respondent counts for just 20 percent of the overall evaluation, Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who sits on the NOBC, asked if there would be any outside reviews to ensure each potential developer can pay for its project if selected.

Grant said an outside expert will review that aspect for each possible developer.

The World Trade Center opened in 1968 as the International Trade Mart.

In recent years, its tenants slowly moved out, and in March 2012, the city closed on a $2.3 million deal with the World Trade Center of New Orleans to give the city full operational control over redevelopment of the 670,000-square-foot tower and its grounds.