A Delay in the Convention Center’s Entertainment District Blamed on the Coronavirus

There have been massive changes to everything these days with the coronavirus pandemic hitting the nation. Finances have been declining for the new 20-acre entertainment district according to the new chairman, Walter Leger III. The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s entertainment project will be put on hold.

The Convention Center’s board put the plans on hold so the center could be used as a temporary medical facility. “The Convention Center is currently being called upon to serve as this medical monitoring facility on behalf of the people of the region and it is important that we focus on serving that emergency response role,” Leger said, adding that there was a “need to return to some normalcy before we proceed” with the development process.

The project, which includes developing the vacant land upriver of the Convention Center, is to include shops, restaurants, residences, a publicly-funded road, upgrades on the current facility and a 1,200-room Omni hotel. The total project will cost well over $1 billion and will be one of the largest projects in New Orleans’ history.

During the board meeting, held on April 7, 2020, it was decided to put the plan to choose a master developer for the project on hold. The Convention Center was scheduled to pick between three development groups to lead the project in May but now will be delayed until the country is back to normal. The public process of choosing the developer is impossible right now. A webinar was in the works but technical difficulties have put the decision to a halt.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, a public policy watchdog, advises the Convention Center to postpone the building of the hotel. The hotel industry will need to be reevaluated after the pandemic settles. The city will need to asses the loses on the city’s hotel market.

The Convention Center committee did decide to choose an executive architect and go ahead with the upgrades to the main facility. They are allowing the work on the linear park on Convention Center Boulevard to also continue.

“My expectation would be that in coming weeks and months, as we transition into recovery mode, we can fully get focused on, one, the implementation of the five-year capital improvement plan, and then secondarily the upriver development portion, including the master development proposal process,” Leger told the meeting.

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