New Orleans Four Seasons Development Project Gains Momentum Through Recent Legal Victories
NEW ORLEANS, LA Plans to redevelop the former World Trade Center building as a Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences on the New Orleans riverfront took positive steps forward late last week as Judge Tiffany Chase issued two important rulings in favor of the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, the New Orleans Building Corporation (NOBC), and Carpenter-Woodward, the winners of a March 2015 public vetting and selection process. The rulings are central to a case being brought against the city and NOBC by Two Canal Street Investors, Inc. (TCSI), the last place bidder in the award process to select a developer to lease and redevelop the iconic but long vacant building earlier this year.
The court granted two of the three motions for partial summary judgment requested by the city, NOBC, and Carpenter-Woodward on key issues, including one motion in which the court found as a matter of law that it has no authority to award TCSI the lease and dismissed all claims by TCSI that the court must award the lease to TCSI.
In the second ruling, the court found that NOBC was a properly qualified and constituted public benefit corporation under Louisiana law, dismissing TCSI's claim that NOBC was not a properly qualified public benefit corporation. In a third ruling the court ruled that factual issues regarding TCSI's allegations respecting the process would be considered by the court at another time.
"Carpenter-Woodward is extremely pleased with the decisions by the court and continues to move forward with the project," said Paul Flower, Managing Member of Woodward Interests, and the Co-Developer of the Carpenter-Woodward project. "The court's ruling substantially limited the issues which remain before the Court, and this is clearly an important step in the right direction."
Carpenter-Woodward's winning proposal was deemed the best proposal by the evaluation committee, which, among other things, judged that it would provide the highest economic benefits (rent, taxes and other revenue) to the City and NOBC. The Carpenter-Woodward proposal scored 67 points higher than the second place bidder in a 500 point review process, and 166 points ahead of the plaintiff TCSI, which was the only one of eleven participating development teams to contest the award to Carpenter-Woodward.
In September, leading investors in the New Orleans Four Seasons project joined city officials including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NOBC, members of the New Orleans City Council and more than 200 local and regional business leaders for a signing ceremony to commit their equity investment to the project and the city and people of New Orleans. Investors include Cascade Investments and a major overseas investor, among others.
This project is poised to break a cycle of multiple failed attempts by the City and its building corporation, NOBC, to redevelop the high profile location. The litigation by TCSI is designed to slow the process and to delay the redevelopment of the former World Trade Center building by the Four Seasons, the most premier and trusted hotel brand in the world.
Key features of the project include 350 rooms, 76 luxury residential condominiums, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. The property will also include a cultural exhibit, New Orleans: History at the Confluence of Cultures, curated by internationally regarded Harvard scholar Robert Louis Gates. The award of the development project to Carpenter-Woodward was based on a number of factors including the highest economic benefits to the City and NOBC, the creation of 450 new permanent jobs, and a strong commitment to the City's 35-percent participation of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.
Flower said, "The excitement and momentum behind this important project continue to build despite what we, the City and the vast majority of local civic and business leaders view as a frivolous and selfish attempt to hold up what promises to be a game changer for the City and many people who need well-paying jobs and economic opportunities."