In The News › Councilwoman wants details on Lake Forest Plaza project

Councilwoman wants details on Lake Forest Plaza project

Monday, September 28, 2009
New Orleans CityBusiness

Before New Orleans City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis supports a tax break for the former Lake Forest Plaza mall, developers and the city are going to have to answer some questions — quickly.

Willard-Lewis, who on Sept. 17 asked the council to defer a vote on tax increment financing, told Mayor Ray Nagin in a letter that she has concerns about the viability of the development. Citing a Bureau of Governmental Research study critical of the TIF, she said she is concerned about the project’s scale and how tax proceeds will be used.

She said she will not support the TIF until she sees professional analysis of the project and a review from the city’s economist on the impact the TIF will have on the city’s general fund.

Willard-Lewis also wants copies “of all mortgages, related notes and associated guarantees” for city- and privately owned property at the former mall site, the most recent appraisal of the mall property, more information about the Lowe’s debt, a written commitment from the state and a signed letter of intent from a “large format” retailers committing to the project.

Cesar Burgos, who plans to redevelop the property with Ashton Ryan, said he could fulfill her requests by Thursday, when the council is scheduled to reconsider the TIF ordinance.

As for whether the developers can provide a letter of intent from a retailer, Burgos said, “I don’t know.” The developers have been negotiating to get Wal-Mart to build a store at the site, but no deal has been announced yet.

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