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World Trade Center plans may endanger ferry service

By Megan Snider

New Orleans Magazine

October 1, 2013

When Louisiana Landmarks Society (LLS) announced the 2013 “New Orleans’ Nine Most Endangered Sites” in late June, it named the World Trade Center (WTC) No. 1 on the list. Also included among the LLS’s nine was the loss of the transportation route provided by Canal Street Ferry Service. In August, the city’s selection committee chose Gatehouse Capital Corp.’s proposal above two other submissions for modification of the New Orleans WTC site. According to a report by The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR), which reviewed all three candidate’s submissions, Gatehouse proposed to maintain and renovate the WTC tower, unlike another bid, which called for its demolition. The renovation proposal includes a 245-room W Hotel as well as 280 luxury residential apartments, along with a revolving lounge and restaurant on the 33rd floor and a John Besh restaurant on the first floor, according to BGR.

Few certainties exist as of press time, especially with respect to the off-site plans. According to Gatehouse’s response to questions posed by the city’s selection committee, Gatehouse’s proposal for off-site plans includes redevelopment of the Canal Street ferry terminal to pedestrian-only use through public investment. Gatehouse believes that the few cars that currently use the ferry can instead use the Crescent City Connection to get to Algiers. By eliminating car traffic, Gatehouse says it can “successfully create a new, coherent, unified and attractive pedestrian and tourist connection/experience between Spanish Plaza, the Aquarium, Canal Street and other surrounding areas.” Though Gatehouse’s plans preserve the tower, its plans to eliminate car traffic may not sit well with historic interest groups, such as LLS.

Another aspect of interest to developers, the city and its residents is the availability of historic tax credits that would ultimately fund renovations. According to BGR, the Gatehouse Proposal budget relies on $75.4 million of equity from federal and state historic tax credits, wherein “Tax credit equity is provided by private investors, but the cost is ultimately borne by the public.” However, the WTC doesn’t currently meet criteria to apply for Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit or State Commercial Tax Credit, though a draft National Register nomination to individually list the building has been submitted to the Office of Cultural Development. As Matthew Day, the Office’s outreach and special projects manager, explains, “Should the nomination be approved by the state National Register Review Committee and the National Park Service, it will be eligible for the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit and the State Commercial Tax Credit.”

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