Week in Review, Jan. 4-8: Shock and Awful

NEW ORLEANS – In a week when Louisiana’s coronavirus numbers are near all-time highs – and vaccine distribution would ordinarily be top of mind – events in Washington stole all the attention.

On Wednesday, when the nation’s lawmakers gathered to certify the 2020 electoral college results, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced members of the House and Senate into hiding while rioters fought with police and vandalized the “people’s house.” It was the most destructive breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812. Ultimately, five people lost their lives.

Political and legal fallout from the incident will continue for days to come.

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Still, despite all this, business continued unabated in New Orleans. Here, from staff and wire reports, are the week’s top stories:

Carnival Season Begins Amid Virus Spike, Vaccine Rollout

Louisiana pharmacy phone lines and websites were inundated Monday with people seeking the coronavirus vaccine, after the state unveiled the list of 107 pharmacies that will begin offering immunizations this week for people 70 and older. … Also Monday, the education officials in New Orleans announced that public schools will go back to “distance learning” this week because of rising COVID-19 cases in the city. …

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A subdued Carnival season began Wednesday after the coronavirus pandemic put an end to the crowd-heavy balls and street parades that draw thousands of people to the city every year. The Mardi Gras season always starts on Jan. 6 and ends on Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on Feb. 16. The season is usually marked by extravagant balls and parades where costumed riders throw trinkets to the mobs of people packed along the parade routes. The coronavirus has put an end to those large events. But that has not stopped notoriously creative New Orleanians from coming up with socially distant ways to celebrate. …

The City of New Orleans has announced a return to modified set of “phase one” health restrictions because COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have reached a statewide record high. Reduced capacity limits and gathering sizes will go into effect Friday, Jan. 8 at 6 a.m. and will last for three weeks. “With vaccines coming but our COVID-19 numbers rising, these next few weeks will be a defining moment in the history of our response to this pandemic. That’s why we need everyone in our community to take this change in COVID-19 restrictions very seriously. We are in a precarious situation, one that will not get better unless we have everyone on board,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “These restrictions are for the short term, but they are in place for a reason. We must work together as a collective force to once again flatten the curve and bring our cases under control. I know we can do this, and I believe in our people to get it done.”

Big Deals

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Houma-based Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC has a $178 million Navy contract to build two new research ships for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Houma is also home to another shipyard building three smaller research vessels for the National Science Foundation. The ships will be named Oceanographer and Discoverer after ships that served from the mid-1960s until 1996. The Oceanographer will be homeported in Honolulu. The second ship’s home port has not yet been assigned.

McEnery Residential said it has brokered a sale at the highest price per square foot in the history of the Bywater neighborhood. The sale of a 200-year-old house at 827 Independence Street closed in early December at a price of $735,000, which is equal to $404 a square foot. McEnery said this exceeds the highest known price per square foot in Bywater history by nearly $100.

Ozanam Inn – a nonprofit that provides emergency shelter and aid to the homeless – has purchased a new facility at 2239 Poydras Street to be its new base of operations. The building near University Medical Center was most recently the home of a clinical medical lab. For 65 years, Ozanam Inn has had free access to its current building located at 843 Camp St., which was owned by the New Orleans affiliate of a national Catholic lay organization, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. In late 2019, the building was sold to a developer with plans for a hotel and parking garage, and Ozanam began the search for a new home that would allow it to serve more clients.

SchoolMint, a provider of software solutions for K-12 education, announced that it has purchased New Orleans-based Whetstone Education and will now be supporting 11 million students and more than 18,000 schools worldwide. Whetstone’s bread-and-butter product is a platform that streamlines the process of teacher observation and instructional coaching. “Today’s teachers are being asked to do more than ever and do it in ways they never imagined, often without the support, training, and coaching they need to be successful,” said SchoolMint CEO Bryan MacDonald. 

The Domain Companies have announced that the Odeon at South Market is now open for resident move-ins. The Odeon, a $106 million mixed-use project at 1100 Girod Street, joins the Standard, the Paramount, the Beacon and the Park as the fifth building in the South Market neighborhood. Plans for a sixth and final phase will be announced in 2021. Once an under-used area below the Superdome and above the Warehouse District, South Market has been redeveloped since Hurricane Katrina by Domain’s Matt Schwartz and Chris Papamichael, two New York-based real estate developers (and Tulane graduates) with an affinity for New Orleans. “With The Odeon, we think we’ve achieved our goal of creating the best residential experience in New Orleans and we’re excited to officially welcome our first residents,” said Matt Schwartz, Domain’s co-CEO.

Big Dreams

The Idea Village, the New Orleans-based nonprofit startup accelerator, has selected nine local startups to participate in its 2021 VILLAGEx accelerator program. VILLAGEx is a 16-week cohort-based accelerator program for startups with innovative, technology-focused business models that are building scalable new enterprises. This year’s event will be virtual with potential opportunities for limited in-person programming. “The difficult decisions that our team and selection panel had to make in selecting this cohort from over 50 applications is proof that the New Orleans startup community continues to mature, grow and thrive,” says Jon Atkinson, CEO of the Idea Village. “We have no shortage of talent, ideas and interesting problems to solve.  Our community is focused on developing world class resources to support entrepreneurs who choose to make New Orleans and South Louisiana home.”

Big Book

Biz New Orleans magazine – the national award-winning monthly business publication – will publish the inaugural edition of the New Orleans 500, a book profiling the most influential leaders in greater New Orleans, in the fourth quarter of 2021. The New Orleans 500 will be a snapshot of the city’s most powerful and connected businesspeople divided into categories that reflect the essential sectors of the New Orleans economy – from accounting, architecture and the arts to technology, transportation and everything in between. Included in the publication will be photos, bios and creative fun facts designed to showcase a bit about the people behind the titles. Click here to submit a nomination.

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