As the multi-billion dollar University Medical Center and Veterans Affairs hospital complexes near completion on Canal Street, a new development proposal could take advantage of what many hope will bring an economic boom to Mid-City.
Hotel Loren and Suites, a new European-style boutique hotel, may soon open on 2001 Canal Street. The project would mark the continued development of a once blight-ridden area into an economic powerhouse, fueled by the two hospitals that are expected to cover nearly 70 acres in Mid-City, hold more than 600 beds and bring referrals in from all over the Gulf Coast.
If the hotel development comes to fruition, the plans could convert an abandoned, graffiti-covered building into a hotel holding between 122 and 132 rooms, complete with a restaurant and lounge on the first floor. There may also be a retail space adjacent to the hotel, property developer Dr. Nariner Gupta said, according to documents filed with the city.
To better fit with the multibillion dollar hospital developments being erected across the street, Gupta also said he would also offer discounted rooms to veterans and their families who are able to show “demonstrable need.”
“This building was heavily damaged during Katrina and has not had any work done since Katrina and remains damaged and uninhabitable,” Gupta wrote in a letter to Mid-City residents. “Our goal is to put this building by converting it into a hotel providing much needed accommodation for patients, families and veterans using the University Medical Center and the VA hospital.”
While Gupta touted the “great positive impact” he thought the 47,000 square-foot hotel would give the area, by providing “jobs, taxes and much-needed accommodation in a most convenient location,” there were some questions raised about the development of the building he purchased for $800,000 in 2013, according to city records.
Gupta needs a conditional use permit to add two stories to the building, a proposal that could turn the hotel up to 65,000 square feet of usable space. As part of the application process to city planners, Gupta held a mandatory neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposal.
Of the 160 people invited to the meeting, eight showed up, and those residents seemed most concerned about off-street parking and parking permits for residents.
“Where do cars go?” residents asked, according to a summary of the meeting. “Will there be any guaranteed spaces?”
Gupta replied that he has set up a contract with parking company to provide valet parking to hotel guests, but that he hasn’t asked for residents to get any special priority or parking permits for the area.
He also said he was looking for neighborhood input in regards to funding a green space in the area by giving money for a playground or park that schoolchildren could use.
The hotel’s construction would take place immediately upon approval of the plans, according to city documents, and the project would be completed in nine to 12 months. The University Medical Center hospital is slated to open in August, and the Veterans Affairs hospital complex is slated to be complete by the end of 2016.
According to Paolo Zambito, LCMC Health’s senior vice president for strategy and business development, Gupta isn’t the only developer who’s had his eye on property surrounding the new hospital complex as the completion date nears. The two hospitals are expected to bring plenty of money into Mid-City by providing a boost for real estate sales and the local economy.
At a real estate seminar at the University of New Orleans, Zambito said Friday that the campus will be offering 28,600 square feet of retail space in two buildings, according to an article in NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune.
So far, the hospital has heard interest from fitness centers, restaurants, coffee shops, uniform shops and day care centers, he said.
And the hospital complex isn’t the only development sparking big changes in the neighborhood lately. The $9 million, 2.6-mile Lafitte Greenway bike and pedestrian path is slated to stretch from the French Quarter to Mid-City and open this summer.
Developer Ramsey Green wants to work with the real estate firm Green Coast Enterprises to benefit from the new park by building a brewery that would overlook greenway via outdoor terrace.
Called Urban South, the project would convert an old laundry warehouse on 2606 St. Louis St. into the brewery, as well as a restaurant and even a start-up business space.
And Ryan Donegan, a developer and former professional squash player, is planning for a $100 million mixed-use development complex that would house another 120-room boutique hotel and 300 units of housing. The 374,000-square-foot proposal, situated over more than 8 acres of land on North Carrollton Avenue behind Rouse’s grocery store, would also offer a fitness center with squash courts and climbing facilities.
“It’s an exciting time in Mid-City,” Donegan told The New Orleans Advocate.