River District Neighborhood Developers Celebrate Groundbreaking

NEW ORLEANS – On Nov. 29, stakeholders gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the River District Neighborhood, an ambitious mixed-use development slated for 40 acres of unused land on the banks of the Mississippi River just upriver from the Morial Convention Center.

The development partners and convention center leaders were joined by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other officials, including Governor-Elect Jeff Landry, making one of his first New Orleans appearances since winning the race for the state’s top job.

The massive project, which various speakers at the event described as “catalytic” and “transformational,” has been years in the making. And it will take a few more years — and roughly $1 billion, to bring to fruition.

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The developers are seeking a variety of public subsidies to support what they say will be a $1 billion annual economic impact.

“Today we are delighted to announce that New Orleans is rising at the River District,” said Louis Lauricella, co-managing member of River District Neighborhood Investors. “The result of a bold vision and three years of intentional planning, the River District reflects the time-honored New Orleans connection points of resiliency and inclusiveness and will serve as a national model of how neighborhoods can be responsibly built.”

Img 3529The nascent neighborhood’s two confirmed anchors are Shell Gulf of Mexico Operations, which recently announced plans to build a new headquarters on the site, and Top Golf, the Dallas-based multinational sports entertainment company. In October, Shell announced plans to move its 800 local employees from the Hancock Whitney Center, the skyscraper formerly known as One Shell Square that has been home to Shell’s local operations since 1972. Top Golf is planning a 67,000-square-foot facility on Tchoupitoulas Street despite a rival project from Five O Fore Golf planned a few miles away.

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The River District developers, meanwhile, plan to build condominiums and apartments, retail space, hotels, restaurants, sports and entertainment venues, and other amenities. They anticipate creating $43 million of net new annual tax revenues and more than $1 billion in economic activity. They have committed to building a total of 900 mixed-income housing units, of which 450 will be affordable and workplace housing units.

The development partners include Louis Lauricella, Tara Hernandez, Shawn Barney, Mike Merideth, Brian Gibbs and Nicole Webre in New Orleans. Chris Maguire of Cypress Equities is based in Dallas. Local construction affiliates include Robert Boh and Lauren Gibbs. Project managers are Peter Mervin, Scott Harrington and Todd James.

The team secured a long-term lease on the land from the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, which owns the land and oversees the adjacent convention center.

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“With today’s groundbreaking, our shared vision for a vibrant new neighborhood adjacent to the Convention Center is coming into sharp focus,” said Jerry Reyes, Exhibition Hall Authority president. “Building on this rare piece of undeveloped New Orleans riverfront land is a momentous project, and we are thrilled to play a role creating what will be a transformative asset for the New Orleans region and the state of Louisiana.”

“Today marks more than just a groundbreaking for a mixed-use development; it represents a transformative moment for our city,’ said Michael Sawaya, president and CEO of the convention center. “This visionary project will shape the very fabric of our community, bringing together diverse elements that will forever change the way we live, work, and thrive. As the first shovel hits the ground, so does our determination to create a future that is vibrant, inclusive, and limitless in its possibilities. Together, we build not just buildings, but a legacy of progress that will inspire New Orleans for generations to come.”

In the coming months, developers expect to announce additional partnerships. Plans already in place include a large park, district-wide stormwater management and all-new infrastructure to support the neighborhood’s future development.

Shell will occupy roughly 120,000 square feet of a new 142,000-square-foot building, which will likely cost more than $40 million to build. At the Nov. 29 groundbreaking Shell executive Colette Hirstius, who leads Gulf of Mexico operations, noted that the company has been in New Orleans since 1929 and has no plans to move.

“Our Gulf of Mexico operations were born here, and this move allows us to be as vital to the City’s vibrant future as we have been foundational to its past,” she said. “As the global demand for energy continues to grow, lower carbon oil and gas like that produced in the Gulf of Mexico will remain critical in ensuring a balanced energy transition. Moving to this new modern, fit-for-purpose office will help us to maximize our performance in a cost-effective way, so that we can help to meet the energy needs of today, tomorrow and for decades to come.”

Topgolf representatives said the company will commence construction soon on Tchoupitoulas. Fences are already in place at the site.

“Breaking ground on the dynamic River District project is an exciting milestone for the New Orleans community and a big step toward bringing Topgolf to the city,” said Topgolf Chief Development Officer Chris Callaway. “We look forward to bringing even more play to this lively community and are honored to be selected as the entertainment anchor for the new River District development.”

Developers said construction projects in the neighborhood will begin after roughly 18 months of infrastructure work, which includes new roads and sewer and utility lines. They said this will allow for traffic improvements and a transportation system that will feature bus rapid transit, rideshare, taxi drop-off and pick-up locations, and parking for vehicles and bikes.

“The River District signifies an enormous opportunity to infuse economic possibilities and a range of uses into a dynamic and sustainably constructed community,” said New Orleans Councilwoman Lesli Harris, whose Council District B includes the River District. “I appreciate the developers’ commitment to shaping a vision for a neighborhood that will include infrastructure improvements as well as affordable and workforce housing, so people can live near where they work.”

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