In The News › BGR notes lean details in WTC site proposals

BGR notes lean details in WTC site proposals

By Ben Myers

CityBusiness

July 1, 2013

The committee of city officials that will review three proposals Tuesday to redevelop the former World Trade Center will not have at its disposal a current, city-commissioned appraisal of the 33-story tower, according to a report the Bureau of Government Research released this afternoon.

Officials informed the nonprofit government watchdog organization that the city has not initiated an appraisal in more than five years, according to the report.

“Evaluating the adequacy of these offers requires information on the tower’s value,” the report states, referring to compensation the three respondents are offering as part of proposed lease deals.

Two of the development teams — James H. Burch LLC and the Tri-Centennial Consortium — are offering annual seven-figure lease payments while Gatehouse Capital Corp. is offering a single, upfront payment of $10 million.

Burch LLC is offering $1.25 million annually during a four-year construction period and inflation-adjusted payments of $1.5 million over a 99-year lease.

The Tri-Centennial consortium is proposing $1.5 million annual payments for an unspecified period of time, although that amount is a “placeholder, subject to change depending on what is ultimately built on the site,” the report states, drawing on information provided in an interview with the consortium last month.

BGR interviewed all three teams for its report, which provides summary analysis of the city’s redevelopment solicitation for the site and the three proposals.

Burch and Gatehouse want to redevelop the tower into mixed-use sites with luxury hotel anchors. Tri-Centennial, which is an informal collection of public and private tourism and hospitality organizations, proposes to demolish the tower and replace it with some type of riverfront tourist attraction.

BGR does not endorse any of the proposals, but it highlights a lack of details in the Tri-Centennial and Burch proposals.

Tri-Centennial’s plans beyond demolishing the tower are “purely conceptual,” and a “Tri-Centennial Tower” idea at the center of the proposal — like the group’s proposed lease payment — is “placeholder only,” the report states.

Burch, meanwhile, provides “only conceptual sketches” and “acknowledges the proposal does not present a ‘fully finished product,’” according to the report.

The report reiterates criticism of the city’s “request for proposals” that BGR first issued in February. Namely, the organization says the city’s “criteria are vague and do not clearly connect to the RFP’s goals.” At the same time, the city’s directives related to finances are ambiguous, in the BGR’s view.

Those directives are that proposals “should be privately financed” and that developers “should be prepared” to compensate the New Orleans Building Corp. — the city agency that owns the tower — for using the site.

“Neither directive is further defined in the RFP,” the BGR report states. “Neither is exactly a mandate.”

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