Businesses on Convention Center Boulevard worry over Corps restrictions

Convention Center officials concerned over Corps restrictions

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Work on a $65 million linear park along Convention Center Boulevard continued Tuesday (March 26), but construction restrictions imposed by the Army Corps of Engineers create concerns.

“Any time you have construction, you want it to go as smooth as possible,” Murphy Christina, who works for Mulate’s Restaurant, said. “The river’s caused delays and pushed it back."

Businesses along the busy corridor have received notice that Landis Construction will not be able to drive piles or conduct major excavation due to the high Mississippi River.

Army Corps spokesman Matt Roe said with the river so high, the levees are more fragile.

“Any subsurface vibrations or impacts can cause potential issues with the levees, and if you’re digging down, people aren’t aware of sand layers which could cause the river to push through under the levees,” Roe said.

That means work on Convention Center Boulevard -- which was supposed to be finished next month -- has been pushed back until May, and that’s bad news for some businesses like Mulate’s Restaurant, which Christina said is already suffering.

“Mardi Gras was bad," Christina said. “The floats used to come down Convention Center Boulevard, but this kept it four blocks up. We were on an island. This was the worst Mardi Gras in a decade.”

While Christina worries about the overall impact of this major construction project, he said he got a big scare late last year, when this entire sidewalk was shut down. In that case, he said contractors moved quickly to re-open it.

“The Convention Center and Landis [were] responsive in the beginning to keep the sidewalks open. That kept the lifeblood in the area, down to the casinos, open, so it’s been better than it could have been,” Christina said.

The overall plan calls for the elimination of two lanes of traffic on Convention Center Boulevard, while creating of a linear park and a pedestrian mall.

The temporary ban on excavation will be revisited April 11, when the river is expected to drop down to the 11-foot level on the Carrollton gauge. Right now, it’s at nearly 17 feet.

“When we hit phase one, which is 11 feet at Carrollton, some is permitted on a case by case basis on a waiver," Roe said.

Which is welcome news to those suffering from a major construction project, which they say is disrupting their business.

“We’re just living with what’s coming,” Christina said.

Convention Center General Manager Michael Sawaya said the the Corps’s excavation ban has also slowed a new multi-modal transportation center that’s being built near the Crescent City Connection. But he said in spite of those delays, he still believes it will be finished in time for the August 2021 completion date.

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