Convention Center and Omni Announce Preferred Site for Hotel

NEW ORLEANS – The Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority has approved two resolutions necessary to move forward with the development of a 1,000-room headquarters hotel affiliated with the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. 

The authority accepted a formal letter of intent from Omni Hotels & Resorts to own and operate the hotel, and it voted to approve a purchase and sale agreement for property at Convention Center Boulevard and Andrew Higgins Boulevard. The site, currently home to the Sugar Mill event venue, is immediately across the street from the center. The Sugar Mill is owned by real estate developer Sean Cummings and several partners.

The project, long a dream of Convention Center leaders, has the backing of the state’s top elected official.

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“In case anyone needed another reason to travel to New Orleans, this is it. I am ecstatic that the authority has taken the next step to develop a new hotel for the New Orleans Convention Center,” said Gov. Jeff Landry in a statement. “My sincere thanks goes to Omni Hotels & Resorts, the authority, and all who worked to make this a reality.”

Convention Center leaders hope the hotel will help attract more events and allow the facility to keep pace with other cities vying for meeting business. The Georgia World Congress Center Authority in Atlanta, for instance, just completed construction of a $500 million hotel in January. 

“Today’s votes signal the authority’s approval to move forward with a plan that will finally give New Orleans the new, dedicated headquarters hotel it deserves. This is the right time, at the right place and with the right partner,” said Russell Allen, Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority president. “Partnering with Omni Hotels & Resorts will help us transform this visionary concept into a reality and seize a unique opportunity to propel our community forward while making a lasting impact on our economic landscape.”

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Plans for a headquarters hotel began several years ago, but the pandemic slowed the timeline, especially when Preston Hollow Capital, the project’s financial backer, pulled out of the deal.

“The authority’s actions take us one step closer to attracting the trade shows, conventions and events that only an adjacent headquarters hotel can,” said Michael J. Sawaya, Convention Center president and CEO. “It will introduce a new market and mean more events, bring more jobs, generate new demand for rooms for other hotels in the market and more spending at local restaurants and other businesses. Building a headquarters hotel will be transformative for New Orleans tourism and realize a vision many years in the making.” 

Omni has been the authority’s selected partner since 2018. It has developed seven similar properties in other cities. The hotelier has committed to investing $500 million to finance the project.

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“We are excited to begin negotiations with the authority, as we work together to develop the new Convention Center headquarter hotel in New Orleans,” said Kurt Alexander, president of Omni Hotels & Resorts. “Omni Hotels & Resorts is a recognized leader in the convention center hotel market, and we excel at developing hotels that reflect the dynamic local culture of a destination. The City of New Orleans is a premier destination and an American treasure, so we are thrilled at the prospect of creating a hotel that embodies its character and culture.” 

If the project moves forward, Convention Center leaders said it will support approximately 1,100 permanent jobs, generate roughly $282 million in annual impact on the local economy and add a combined $24 million in annual tax revenue for the city and the state.

A spokesperson for the Exhibition Hall Authority said final agreements could be ready for it to review and consider at the end of 2024. Design and construction could begin in 2025.

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