Who Will Develop the New Addition on the Earnest N. Morial Center

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has plans to add a new 1,200-room hotel, residential and entertainment district on 47-acres upriver. The commercial district will focus on music and sport themed venues.

Plans to build an Omni-branded hotel and entertainment attractions are part of the Convention Center’s multi-billion-dollar refurbishment and expansion program. The program was developed to enhance the Convention Center and make it competitive with other giant convention centers across the country.

Five teams were narrowed down in October by the convention committee but only three development teams have been chosen to submit a master plan proposal for the new development. The detailed proposals will focus on the entertainment portion of the project which will include approximately 20-acres of the 47-acres. The three companies are Woodward, Leventhal, Carpenter; The Domain Companies; and River Park Neighborhood Investors.

“We are extremely gratified by the interest shown by five well-regarded and highly experienced development teams, and believe the three finalists demonstrate the kind of vision, experience and capabilities necessary to bring this transformative project to life,” said Michael Sawaya, president of the Convention Center, in a statement announcing the short list.

The Domain Companies which is run by Matthew Schwartz and Chris Papamichael is best known for South Market District. This $500 million development includes The Standard, restaurants and retail outlets. River Park Neighborhood Investors, led by Lou Lauricella, is known for the Elmwood Center, the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel and the Palace Theaters. The Woodward/Carpenter group is known for their current redevelopment of the World Trade Center on Canal Street into the Four Seasons Hotel.

The plans should compliment the hotel which will be developed by Dallas-based Matthews Southwest and local developer Darryl Berger. The convention center committee will devise a detailed request of what is expected in the three groups proposals December 13, 2019. The deadline for them to submit the master plan will be February 28, 2020. This deadline has been extended by more than a month of the original January 17, 2020 deadline.

The project has run into some hurdles including political and financial hardships. The City Planning Commission proposed “to reroute truck traffic in and out of the Port of New Orleans as part of its development of the upriver acres.” The port has also voiced concerns regarding the reroute of traffic in the area once the project is complete.

“We’ve always said we don’t have a plan yet and that whoever the master developer will be will have to engage with all of the businesses in the neighborhood to ensure everyone is on board,” Sawaya said.

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