Jul 102014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

It won’t be long before Mayor Landrieu will begin telling us why we need to approve one or more of his tax proposals in the fall elections. Before you get out your checkbook, we have a few ideas that will create new jobs and generate additional taxes — if the Mayor and the City Council can be a little more flexible on zoning.

Canal Street will never reach its full potential without more people living, working or visiting there. Though he may not be a Saint, Canal Street’s golden boy, Mike Motwani, has made millions selling t-shirts, jewelry, souvenirs, and lots of other stuff. Motwani wants to invest in a big, tall hotel that will create plenty of jobs and taxes. Let him incorporate the historic facade and build the hotel as tall as he wants. For that matter, let other property owners along Canal Street add a new top floor — set back from the street — that could become luxury apartments.

We love the Howard Hughes Corp’s Outlet Collection, its new jobs and new tax dollars. Let’s encourage the Hughes team to design a second phase with condos or a hotel to be built on top of the shopping mall. Cha Ching!

The Spanish Plaza is also leased by the City to the Hughes team. Instead of ordinary food vendors now present, put a local 5-Star restaurant on the plaza and build a small amphitheatre which will create jobs for musicians too.

Forget about leasing the World Trade Center to a developer in exchange for annual payments. Just sell it outright. Get a realistic appraisal, set a minimum bid, and invite the world to submit proposals. Give the winner 36 months to complete the project. Throw in the Canal Street Ferry landing. Though we love car ferries, Veolia will only be able to turn a profit by operating a passenger system sans cars using smaller, faster, and more efficient vessels.. Tell developers they have to incorporate a plaza for ferry passengers on the first floor but that they can build up as tall as the WTC.

The City could trade the WTC to the Morial Convention Center, explained State Representative Walt Leger. The MCC might also like to get their hands on the Hilton Hotel’s ground level lot in front of the Riverwalk, which could be become a multi-story parking garage and still leave room for other ground level commercial uses.

Furthermore, the City should encourage the Hilton Corporation to build a smaller hotel on their parking lot at Poydras and Convention Center Blvd. A savvy developer could take the parking lot next to the Piazza d’ Italia and turn it in to a mixed use project. It’s worth a lot more than the $1 Million in annual rent the City gets now! Michael Hecht could search for an oil-rich sheik to turn the long-vacant Loew’s State Palace Theatre into 20 stories of condos with food and live entertainment (theatre or music) on the ground floor.

Today the City Council is taking up a proposed hotel (currently a parking lot owned by tourism guru Warren Reuther) at 632 Tchoupitoulas. Fillmore Hospitality wants to invest $17 million at the site. The new hotel could increase traffic in the neighborhood and tighten parking on the street, but that’s the trade-off for additional jobs and taxes. Councilmember Latoya Cantrell’s decision will tell all.

Our business is located on Baronne Street, just off Julia. There are two smaller hotels being proposed around the corner on Julia — both with women developers. One is on the agenda at the Board of Zoning Adjustments next week for several waivers. Though we are not thrilled about the waivers, we are thrilled that the hotel will generate more economic activity in the neighborhood, especially for the small cafes, galleries and clothing stores in our quadrant.

The Marigny and Bywater are also ripe for development, says Sean Cummings who converted an old rice mill by NOCCA into fabulous luxury apartments. The view from his rooftop patio at sunset in truly breathtaking. Cummings believes that the city should rezone vacant parcels to encourage development which would make the surrounding neighborhoods even more desirable and increase property values. Many readers probably know of parcels in their neighborhoods that could become economic generators as well, if zoning permitted.

We love old buildings and the historic character of our city. But we also believe that the average citizen is all taxed out. Life in New Orleans is full of options. While we can’t control the price of gas or flood insurance, we can support policies that will generate income for the city and reduce the need for new taxes.

Instead of cutting services like garbage and NORD, let’s look toward economic development as an answer to the City’s money problems.. Maybe Chinese or Russian billionaires will want to redevelop Charity Hospital into their private playground… Who knows?

If readers were offered a job at Company X and Company Y at almost the same rate of pay, but the working conditions and equipment to help do the job at one was far superior to the other, which job would they take? With every law enforcement agency in our region recruiting, it is hard for New Orleans to come out on top, especially with the big numbers we need to recruit. Our salary and benefit package, technology and other tools must be far superior than any of our neighbors. Clearly, they are not.

The NOPD might need reorganization. Some say there are too many police districts. It is understandable why water would serve as a natural boundary for police districts, i.e. Algiers and over the Industrial Canal. But with district stations come commanders, captains, lieutenants and sergeants. If we combined the main part of the city into two districts, four total, the extra rank could be deployed in the neighborhoods. With fewer buildings, we would also reduce operating costs.

We think more officers in the field would mean a faster response to 911 calls – maybe never as fast as the JPSO’s 5 minute response time – but still a whole lot faster that what citizens experience now. Your “neighborhood” officers might not be around the corner, but when you really need them, they would get to you much faster.

Mitch Landrieu recruited Taxicab Bureau Director Malachi Hull to do his dirty work with the cab drivers before the SuperBowl. When Malachi got too big for his britches, Landrieu had Andy Kopplin “ask” the OIG to conduct an investigation. While there is no love lost between Landrieu and OIG, the latter can be handy at times.

Federal Judge Ginger Berrigan was very kind to former Mayor Ray Nagin. She might have been even kinder if Ray had ever apologized for what he did. Now he’ll have 10 years to think about it.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

  • Cmb6091

    It is just infuriating that a select few in this city rather pay higher taxes and have a crap police department and crap city services , than have to deal with tougher parking or taller buildings. A few 100 keep speaking on behalf of 100’s of thousands in this city just because of the proximity they live to a project or because of who they know and how much they make to sit on some kangaroo board.

  • holly

    landrieu and his administration’s popularity is a mystery. but it might be tied to the local media’s pandering unwillingness to hold him accountable for his slick sound-bite style. they are happy to skewer jindal for the same style but it is not jindal it is landrieu who is responsible for, among much more, the insane noise ordinance b.s., the inept police chief who has demoralized the police force, the inability to get a handle on serious crime (despite manipulating stats), the unprecedented ridiculous streetlight issue, the ongoing f-up that is the property tax collection department, the worsening condition of the streets (way worse than ever before), the destruction of the taxicab business (try getting a cab sometime, when/if it comes ask the driver what’s wrong with the cab business – s/he will tell you), as the writers, above, point out, the impending tax increases, and the lack of any economic vision. All this at a time when the city itself has never been so progressive.

  • How is more hotels, apartments and condos around the French Quarter, the river and Canal St, “out of the box” thinking?