Reclaiming the River

New Orleans was birthed from, and is defined by, its relationship to the Mississippi River. Yet for decades, public access to the historic riverfront has been limited.

This will soon change. On October 27, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, elected offi­cials and community stakeholders came together to announce a major change in access through a number of redevelopment projects: Over three miles of riv­erfront access will soon to be opened up or improved upon. “New Orleans will now be home to one of the largest contiguous riverfront parks in the U.S., which is a huge win for every resident and visitor of our city,” Landrieu said.

Eight key projects have been identified with a combined budget of over $507 million, funded through a number of partnerships. The successful 2014-2015 development of Crescent Park, opening up the riverfront from Elysian Fields Avenue in the Marigny to Bywater, allows for a glimpse of what is to come. Other projects contained within the monumental scope of work include the renovation of the World Trade Center building site and Spanish Plaza; a new Canal Street Ferry Terminal with a pedestrian bridge; improvements to Woldenberg Riverfront Park, Crescent Park and Moonwalk Riverfront Park; and the conversion of the Esplanade Avenue and Governor Nicholls Street Wharves into public green spaces.

The acquisition of the Governor Nicholls Street and Esplanade Avenue Wharves by the City of New Orleans from the Port of New Orleans is the last element to be added to the multi-site project. The total transfer of the property is due to be completed by the end of the year, and initial public ac­cess can be expected as early as the spring of 2018. A proposed budget of $15 million will transform the industrial landscape of the wharves into wel­coming park spaces through a public planning process. This site will feature storm water management components, like other park spaces included in the redevelopment, where enhancements of tree canopies are also planned.

Situated at the base of Canal Street and previously known as Eads Plaza, Spanish Plaza was unveiled in 1976, when Spain split the $2.3 million devel­opment cost with the City in an act of goodwill to honor their shared past. The current restoration of the plaza was designed by Dana Brown & Associ­ates and is being constructed by Tuna Construction, LLC with an anticipated completion date of April 2018. The original tiles, representing the Spanish Provinces, and the interior face of the fountain will be restored. Improvements and additions include new paving, landscaping, additional seating, improve­ments to the fountain, and updated lighting. The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is contributing $6.2 million and the New Orleans Build­ing Corporation is providing $1.3 million to cover the $7.5 million project.

Of the impressive list of planned projects, the redevelopment of the World Trade Center is perhaps the most highly anticipated by the pres­ervation community. After a long-fought battle to save the structure from demolition and match it with an organization that could real­ize its potential, it seems that the pieces are in place for what is sure to be an award-winning redevelopment project. The New Orleans Four Seasons Hotel and Residences are transforming the property into a 401-room hotel situated below 65 luxury condominiums with additional amenities and public attrac­tions, including an exhibition of African-American culture in Louisiana. Four Seasons has pledged a commitment to engage Disadvantaged Business Enterprises for 35 percent of the work during the construction phase, which is expected to result in 1,620 jobs throughout the $400 million project. The renovation was de­signed by Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc. and was developed by Carpenter & Company, Inc. and Woodward Interests, LLC, backed by a number of equity investors. Overall, the property is anticipated to create $10 million annually in property and hotel tax revenues, providing an economic impact that will greatly aid New Orleans’ residents. This ground­breaking adaptive reuse project is due to be complete in the spring of 2020.

We look forward to following the progress of these projects as they unfold, and to experiencing river­front access in a way that hon­ors the original design of the city.