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State lawmakers set to consider new plan to revamp riverfront

New Orleans, La.- A bill that would grant the Convention Center broad new powers to revamp the riverfront is about to be tested in the legislature.

The measure could clear the way for a $488 million  project, that would include new park space, and a signature monument at the river.

It could also see the convention center, get into the hotel development business.

It is a story we're working on with our partners at 'The Lens'.

For decades now, the convention center authority, has had the power to build, and expand the Ernest Morial convention center for the purpose of boosting tourism. But under a bill proposed by state representative Walter Leger (D-N.O.), that authority could grow, to include new retail and hotel development. " It also calls for the development on the World Trade Center site, if they can acquire that from the city," said Leger.

And that could be a problem. Right now, the World Trade Center, belongs to a city agency, called the New Orleans Building Corporation.  Mayor Mitch Landrieu's spokesman Ryan Berni said N.O.B.C. is now considering three proposals for it's re-development, something which the head of the Canal Street development corporation is eager to see.

" I think it's an eyesore, and impossible to redevelop as it is," said David Rubenstein.

Our partners at 'The Lens', acquired the plan drawn up by the Convention Center, in conjunction with the Tricentennial Consortium . That company is also one of three bidders to redevelop the World Trade Center.

The drawings, show a revamped Convention Center Boulevard, complete with light rail, to be paid for with bond money, and funds from the state construction budget.

"The ultimate goal is to allow for the issuance of bonds needed for a major overhaul of that area, upgrades to the vicinity, traffic flow, and the riverfront," said Leger.

It also shows the World Trade Center site, without the long dormant building. In it's stead, is a park, and a 20 story tall, decorative tower, and fountain.

Also gone in the drawings, is the Canal Street ferry landing.

Leger's bill also calls for expansion of Convention Center authority upriver, to include the greenspace north of the Convention Center, and it's possible redevelopment into a park or an amphitheatre.

The artist renderings also show new retail, and hotel space.

Rubenstein said, " We don't have enough hotels, every weekend is sold out, but we just don't have enough hotel space."

But before any of that happens, the legislature must approve the use of Convention Center bond money, for financing new private development.

The Tricentennial Consortium is also sponsoring another bill, that would impose a new hotel tax, to promote tourism.

The bill to revamp the riverfront has been referred to the house ways and means committee. It has not been put on the calendar yet.

We reached out to the convention center director, and several board members for comment, but no one returned our calls.

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