Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Boardwalk Empire

Here's a project that seems to have come out of left field.
A pair of developers, headed by the owner of Tipitina's, is negotiating the lease of a stretch of disused lakefront property in the hopes of constructing a 4.5 acre water park and outdoor concert-festival venue.

The development would sit on the site of the old Bally's riverboat casino landing in eastern New Orleans.

The Orleans Parish Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Board, which owns the land, is negotiating lease terms with Studio Network-Lakefront LLC, a company formed by Tipitina's owner Roland von Kurnatowski and his business partner, Dr. Eric George, a prominent New Orleans orthopedic surgeon.
It looks like they finally want to redevelop the Jazzland/Six Flags site... only they're not doing it at the Jazzland/Six Flags site.
Studio Network's proposal for the lakefront, dubbed Tipitina's Festival Park, would include:
  • An outdoor amphitheater with a 5,000 capacity.
  • A lazy river and splash park.
  • Water slides and zip lines.
  • A two-story, covered boardwalk with shops.
  • The conversion of the old riverboat terminal into an open-air market.
The "Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Board" exists as a result of the a post-Katrina reorganization of the levee board.  Even though the city had been flooded because of levee design failures on the part of the US Army Corps of Engineers, some felt as though it was inappropriate for the levee board to go on managing real estate and other recreational assets such as this riverboat landing.  That same some argued that, since managing these properties exposed the levee board to the dreaded appearance of possible corruption, that this somehow made us less safe from catastrophic flooding.. even though it hadn't.

In any case, what they decided to do was outsource the appearance of corruption to its own independent board.  Problem solved, right?   I mean who could get the wrong idea from this?
When those properties were returned to local control with the 2010 creation of the authority, the Bally's parcel was just one in a long list of battered assets that the newly-created entity, which lacks tax-funding, was incapable of repairing and returning to commerce on its own.

Last year, the authority decided to let the private sector have a go, issuing a request for development proposals.

Studio Network's proposal was the only submittal.
Speaking of non-flood assets, this story reminded me of  another  waterfront development in roughly the same part of town. When last I saw they also wanted to build a boardwalk.
Among other amenities, Pontchartrain Landing boasts 105 RV sites, 40 boat slips, a swimming pool, the Lighthouse Bar and Restaurant, three houseboats and regular shuttle service to the French Quarter. According to Bob MacKinnon, the founder of GuestReviews, a kind of TripAdvisor for the camping and RV industry, Pontchartrain Landing has consistently ranked among the top 1 percent of campgrounds in the country.

"It's part of a pretty exclusive group," MacKinnon said.

And it's currently in the midst of a makeover. In time for Mardi Gras, Schenck plans to  add a large reception hall, a new seafood restaurant, a coffee shop, 10 boat slips, 20 RV sites and 51 hotel-style rental units.

"Our goal is to create a boardwalk atmosphere on the north end of the canal," Schenck said during a tour of the property, as excavators tore up the earth around him. "We want to be what the West End of New Orleans used to be."
When that story was published they were lobbying City Council for an "overlay district" zoning exception.  Whatever happened there?

No comments: